OP-ED: Beware of utility scams


The effects of the COVID-19 virus have been felt around the world. Unfortunately, beyond health risks, bad actors are using the pandemic to capitalize off unsuspecting victims. Scams are nothing new, even in the utility world. Scammers prey upon victims by manipulating their emotions and creating fear.

Like other legitimate businesses, utility companies will never ask for personal information over the phone or by email to satisfy payment on a past-due account. Never give out your Social Security number, date of birth or other critical identifying information.

If you ever receive a disconnect notice by email or over the phone, verify the sender’s address or telephone number is your utility’s. Remember that phone numbers and caller IDs can be spoofed or mimicked. If in doubt, hang up and call your utility company’s customer service department to verify a request is valid.

A utility company will never call you and threaten immediate disconnection if you do not provide a credit card number by phone. Never pay your utility bill by giving your bank account, credit card or CVC number over the phone.

Also, never purchase a prepaid debit card or anything else someone tells you to that is not traceable by your credit card company.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, utility companies continue to work with customers on payment options, including balanced billing, when necessary. If you are experiencing a financial hardship, contact your utility provider to discuss a plan that works for you.

Be smart, be safe and always verify any requested information with your utility provider. Always call the utility customer service department using the telephone number listed on their website or your utility bill.

Report to your local authorities any suspicious phone calls or emails posing as your utility provider. This is criminal activity. You can find more information about utility disconnection rules on the Public Service Commission website at https://psc.nd.gov/public/consinfo/ysk.php

Brian Kroshus – Chairman, North Dakota Public Service Commission

Kroshus holds the portfolio for regulation of investor-owned utilities operating in North Dakota.