South Central Power is offering some tips to help members avoid being taken in by scammers.

November 15th is Utility Scam Awareness Day. Throughout the week of November 11th, utility companies across the country are participating in campaigns to heighten awareness of the types of scams going around and provide tips for customers to protect themselves. 

“Scammers are becoming more bold and cunning,” said Cathy Bitler, South Central Power’s vice president of communication and community relations. “They particularly target senior citizens and low-income households.Small businesses are often a target as well.”

Bitler says a typical scam involves a call from someone impersonating a utility employee and claiming the customer’s service is about to be disconnected because of an unpaid bill. “The caller will demand the customer go to a local store, purchase a pre-paid card and call back within a short period of time to use the card to pay off the debt,” said Bitler. In other cases, the caller may claim the customer has overpaid and needs a credit card number so a refund can be generated.

There are some simple steps people can take to protect themselves. First, Bitler says, do not give personal information like your birth date, Social Security number orcredit card number to someone unless you have initiated the call. “You want to be sure you know who you’re talking to,” said Bitler,noting that utility companies like South Central Power do not call and demand immediate payment.

Second, Bitler cautions people to be waryof the phone numbers they see on Caller ID devices.  “Phone numbers can be spoofed to look like the call is coming from your local utility,” says Bitler.  “If you suspect a scam, hang up and call your utility company directly.”

While phone scams are the most common source of fraudulent activity, people should also be on the lookout for email scams.  Bitler warns against clicking on links in unexpected emails and suggests taking time to make sure the address of the sender makes sense.