Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative urges members to beware of threats from utility scammers
Recently Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative has been made aware that utility scam artists have been contacting our members using tricks to try and steal money from them. Please read and share the following information to help guard again scam activity and to protect yourself, friends and family from these long-running scams targeting customers of utility service providers.
Under this scam, a customer receives an unsolicited phone call from an individual who falsely claims to be a Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative representative. The scammer warns that SVEC will disconnect the customer’s electric service if the customer fails to make a payment – usually within a short time frame.
Scammers have even duplicated the Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative customer call center greeting so when customers call back phone numbers provided by the scammer, it sounds like a legitimate SVEC phone number. Some of these criminals also use caller ID spoofing to replicate SVEC’s customer service number or our after-hours answering and dispatch service, Cooperative Response Center (CRC). The fake telephone number on the caller ID may look like it is coming from SVEC or CRC our after-hours answering and dispatch service, however, when the number is called a recording is often reached stating that the number has been disconnected.
While CRC does make courtesy calls to members who are behind on their payments, SVEC would like to remind our members that if you have any doubts about the identity of the caller, hang up and call SVEC to make sure that the caller is really representing the co-op.
We strongly urge our members to be wary of anyone calling them to demand immediate payment for services from SVEC. The safety and confidence of our members is a number one priority with us. We try to do everything possible to make it easy for you to identify the information you receive from us. If in doubt, do not hesitate to call anytime to verify any suspicious electric utility phone call or email you may receive. After hours calls will be answered by the Cooperative Response Center and reported to SVEC.
Red flags for scam activity
- The thief becomes angry and tells the customer his or her account is past due and service will be disconnected if a large payment isn’t made – usually within less than an hour.
- The thief instructs the customer to purchase a pre-paid debit or credit card – widely available at retail stores – then call him or her back to supposedly make a payment to SVEC.
- The scammer asks the customer for the prepaid card’s receipt number and PIN number, which grants instant access to the card’s funds.
How to protect yourself
- Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative never asks or requires a customer with a delinquent account to purchase a prepaid debit card to avoid disconnection.
- Customers can make payments online, by phone, automatic bank draft, mail or in person.
- Customers with delinquent accounts receive an advance disconnection notification with the regular monthly billing – never a single notification one hour before disconnection.
- If you suspect someone is trying to scam you, hang up and call the local police then Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative. Never dial the phone number the scammers provide.
SVEC members who suspect or experience fraud, or feel threatened during contact with one of these thieves, should contact local authorities, and then the Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative phone number listed on their bill, in the Tennessee Magazine or in the local phone book.
Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative and utility companies across the country continue to enhance our efforts to educate the public. On average, over 90 percent of customers who receive a call and report it to their local utility indicate they did not fall for the scam. In the initial stages of the scam activity, it is estimated that at least 50 percent of customers contacted were tricked.
In an effort to raise awareness of the threat from these thieves, SVEC continues to run news articles in the local papers and in the co-op’s bill insert newsletter and the SVEC section of the Tennessee Magazine, periodically posts warnings on social media and will continue to feature educational programs on the topic of avoiding financial fraud and scams during our series of Senior Expos each October.
The cooperative continues to work with law enforcement, other utilities and the media to denounce the scams.
For more information visit www.svalleyec.com or follow Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative on Twitter and Facebook to learn more.
Please share this information with your family and friends.