By Tyne Phillips, HNN Fall Intern
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii utilities companies want customers to be aware of the increase in scams during the holiday season.
Scammers are getting creative by impersonating utility workers, which is catching people off guard.
“Unfortunately, scammers are always looking for potential victims, and the utility scam is one of the common ruses,” said Honolulu Police Deputy Chief John McCarthy.
In some instances, scammers will show up to a person’s door, unannounced, and say they need to check a leak on the property or that they need to pay for the bill right then.
“They prey on the elderly,” said Kathleen Elliott-Pahinui, PIO for the Board of Water Supply. “They’ll come up, they’ll say, ‘oh we’re here to shut off your water, we need to collect money.’ We never collect money onsite. We would ask you to come into the office or we’ll make payment plan arrangements with you online.”
Among the scams is one called “spoofing,” where the phone number will look legitimate. Police say those will usually start out as a machine, and then get transferred to a person who will push for monetary payment.
Here are some scenarios utility companies provided that are a scam:
- If the caller says your utility account is delinquent and threatens to shut off service immediately unless payment is made.
- If someone calls from a utility demanding immediate payment over the phone, via money transfer, prepaid debit cards or by Bitcoin.
- If the caller asks to meet the customer in person to pick up a payment.
- If you receive an email from your utility urging you to click on an embedded link or attachment to resolve a utility issue or pay a bill, think before you click.
If a utility worker shows up at your home or place of business, ensure that person is wearing official attire with a logo, driving a properly labeled vehicle and carrying company identification.
If someone is unsure, they should call the utility company’s customer care number or 911.