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Utility Fraud Tips

PRESS RELEASE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Hannibal Board of Public Works warns against utility fraud criminals

February 25, 2019 – Hannibal, MO – Spring is almost upon us, and somehow, the change in season often seems to prompt a renewal of criminal fraud, and customers of the Hannibal Board of Public Works should be on the alert for phony callers and e-mails trying to scare them into making immediate payments.

A phony contact from one of these criminals usually appears very convincing. The caller sounds professional, or the email has a familiar logo. They say if you don’t pay your utility bills right away, your electricity or water will be shut off. They ask you to pay now, using a specific — maybe unusual — method.

Be warned: The call or email is a trick to steal your money. Utility companies, consumer protection agencies, and the Federal Trade Commission regularly receive complaints from consumers about utility bill scams.

The Hannibal Board of Public Works does not make calls demanding immediate payment.  If your account is past due, you will receive a delinquent notice in the mail that will supply a disconnect date of service for that account.  HBPW is no longer sending automated courtesy calls to past due customers.  Disconnections will occur Tuesday through Thursday.  No disconnections will be performed on Friday or the day before a holiday.  Payments must be received and posted by the HBPW at its office at 3 Industrial Dr. by 4:00 PM prior to the disconnection date to avoid disconnection of service.  Payments received at any other location will not be posted until the next business day.

Here are a few signs you are dealing with a scammer:

  • You get a call or an email claiming your services will be cut off unless you call a number or click on a link and give your account information. The Hannibal Board of Public Works won’t ask you to send your account information by email.
  • Someone calls demanding you wire the money or use a prepaid or re-loadable debit or gift card to pay your bill. Legitimate companies don’t demand you use those methods to pay.
  • The caller tells you to call a phone number and give your credit, debit or prepaid card number If you do that, the scammer can access the money from your credit, debit or prepaid card, and you can’t trace where your money went. Once it’s gone, it’s gone.
  • Fake utility calls of this kind often come after hours or on weekends, outside of the utility’s usual business hours. Scammers also may use caller ID equipment that spoofs the utility’s identity, or impersonate voice recordings to appear to be from the utility, then persuade customers to make a callback to another number for payment.

If you get a call, email, or personal visit from someone about your utility service:

  • Never give out your Social Security Number, credit card number or banking information to anyone requesting it over the phone or at your home unless you initiated the contact or expected the call from the Hannibal Board of Public Works.
  • Never wire money to someone you don’t know — regardless of the situation. Once you wire money, you can’t get it back.
  • Do not click links or call numbers that appear in unexpected emails or texts — especially those asking for your account information. If you click on a link, your computer could become infected with malware, including viruses that can steal information and ruin your computer.
  • Never allow anyone into your home to check electrical wiring, gas pipes or appliances unless you scheduled an appointment or reported a utility problem. Always ask utility employees for proper identification. HBPW employees are required to have their employee identification badge on them at all times.
  • Make sure you’re dealing with the Hannibal Board of Public Works before you pay any amount. Confirm where and how to pay your bill.
    • To determine the status of your account call the HBPW Business Office at (573) 221-8050, Monday through Friday, 7:30 am – 4:30 pm.

If you think a fake utility bill collector or any other scammer has contacted you, report the contact:

  • Notify the Hannibal Board of Public Works at (573) 221-8050.
  • Call the Hannibal Police Department at (573) 221-0987.
  • File a complaint with the Missouri Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division (online at https://www.consumer.ago.mo.gov/ or by phone at 1-800-392-8222.) Be ready to include in your complaint any notices received or caller ID numbers for the incoming call.

 

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Energy, safety and water resource-saving information used in this material is adapted from various published federal, state, public power and non-profit sources.