Southwestern Electric Power Co. (SWEPCO), an American Electric Power (Nasdaq: AEP) company, joined Utilities United Against Scams (UUAS) Wednesday to recognize the fifth annual Utility Scam Awareness Day. Utility Scam Awareness Day is part of the weeklong International Scam Awareness Week, an advocacy and awareness campaign focused on educating customers and exposing the tactics used by scammers.
“Scammers target SWEPCO customers daily by phone, email or in person,” said Paul Pratt, director of Customer Services & Marketing. “Customers who receive urgent, demanding phone calls, emails or an unexpected knock on the door from someone claiming to be with SWEPCO or AEP should be cautious.”
Pratt said customers can verify their account information using the SWEPCO mobile app or by calling SWEPCO at 1-888-216-3523.
UUAS, a consortium of more than 145 U.S. and Canadian electric, water, and natural gas utilities and their respective trade associations, continues to create awareness of common scams and new scam tactics being used during the COVID-19 pandemic. Through its work and with the help of customer reporting, UUAS has succeeded in taking nearly 9,500 toll-free numbers used by scammers against utility customers out of operation.
“It is no surprise that scammers have been seeking to exploit the heightened anxiety of people coping with the pandemic,” said UUAS Founder and Executive Committee Chairman Jared Lawrence. “I am proud to report that UUAS’ education efforts and utilities’ well-publicized customer testimonials have prevented a drastic increase in victims. However, the relentless attempts by these criminals make it clear that we must continue to actively work to protect our customers and to keep scammers from casting confusion on our pandemic recovery messages.”
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, scammers have increased calls, texts, emails, and in-person tactics and are contacting utility customers asking for immediate payment to avoid service disconnection. As a reminder, SWEPCO will never send a single notification to a customer within one hour of a service interruption, and SWEPCO will never ask customers to make payments with a pre-paid debit card, gift card, any form of cryptocurrency, or third-party digital payment mobile applications.
“Customers need to be on high alert as we continue to see impostor utility scams rise across North America,” said UUAS Executive Director Monica Martinez. “Scammers demand money or personal information on the spot—usually with threatening language—and indicate that service will be disconnected immediately. Anyone and everyone, from senior households to small business owners, is at risk of being targeted.”
Customers who suspect that they have been victims of fraud or who feel threatened during contact with a scammer should contact SWEPCO at 1-888-216-3523 or law enforcement authorities. The Federal Trade Commission’s website also provides additional information about protecting personal information and other information regarding impostor scams.
Visit SWEPCO.com/StopScams for more information and tips on how customers can protect themselves from impostor utility scams.