Illinois American Water today announced efforts to stand with its fellow water, electric and natural gas utilities and respective trade associations in support of Utilities United Against Scams (UUAS), a consortium of more than 100 U.S. and Canadian utilities. UUAS will observe the second annual Utility Scam Awareness Day, on Wednesday, November 15, as part of a weeklong advocacy and awareness campaign, November 13–17. Illinois American Water joined UUAS to help expose the tactics scammers use to steal from utility customers and educate customers on how to protect themselves.
Many water, electric and natural gas customers throughout the country are being targeted by impostor utility scams each day. Scammers typically use phone, in-person, and online tactics to target customers. Scammers pose as water, electric or natural gas company employees and sometimes threaten that customers’ services will be shut off if they fail to make an immediate payment.
Scammers can be very convincing and often target those who are most vulnerable, including senior citizens and low-income communities. They also aim their scams at small business owners during busy customer service hours. However, with the right information, customers can learn to detect and report these predatory scams.
“Impostor utility scams can be highly profitable to scammers and financially detrimental to consumers,” said UUAS Executive Director and former Texas Utility Consumer Advocate Sheri Givens. “To prevent future crimes, it is important to educate community leaders and consumers on how to spot, avoid, and report scams.”
“It is extremely rare for a utility employee to show up at a customer’s home without an appointment. However, if someone comes to your door claiming to be from the local utility and you are not expecting them, do not let them inside without proper photo identification,” said Illinois American Water Vice President of Operations Mike Smyth.
How Customers Can Protect Themselves:
Illinois American Water reminds customers that its service personnel wear uniforms, drive company-branded vehicles, and wear photo identification badges with the company’s logo. Customers are urged to take time to examine the photo identification tag whenever an Illinois American Water employee arrives at their home or business. The company does not accept payment at a customer’s house or business. Residents with any suspicions about individuals claiming to be utility workers should call 9-1-1, or Illinois American Water’s customer service center at 1-800-422-2782.
If customers suspect someone is trying to scam them, they should hang up, delete the email, or shut the door. They should then call their utility company at the number on their monthly bill or the company’s website, not the phone number the scammer provides. If customers ever feel that they are in physical danger, they should call 9-1-1.
Signs of Potential Scam Activity:
-Threat to disconnect: Scammers may aggressively tell the customer his or her utility bill is past due
and service will be disconnected if a payment is not made – usually within less than an hour.
-Request for immediate payment: Scammers may instruct the customer to purchase a prepaid card
– widely available at retail stores – then call them back supposedly to make a bill payment to his or
her utility company.
UUAS is dedicated to combating impostor utility scams by providing a forum for utilities and trade
associations to share data and best practices, in addition to working together to implement initiatives to
inform and protect customers. Visit www.utilitiesunited.org for more information and tips about how
customers can protect themselves from scams or follow along on social media: Twitter @U_U_A_S and
About Illinois American Water
Illinois American Water, a subsidiary of American Water (NYSE: AWK), is the largest investor-owned
water utility in the state, providing high-quality and reliable water and/or wastewater services to
approximately 1.3 million people. American Water also operates a customer service center in Alton and a quality control and research laboratory in Belleville.
With a history dating back to 1886, American Water is the largest and most geographically diverse U.S.
publicly-traded water and wastewater utility company. The company employs more than 6,700 dedicated professionals who provide regulated and market-based drinking water, wastewater and other related services to an estimated 15 million people in 47 states and Ontario, Canada. More information can be found by visiting www.amwater.com.
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