FirstEnergy is warning customers that callers demanding an immediate payment of their electric bill using a prepaid debit card. It’s a scam used on customers from AEP and other utilities.
Utility companies say some of their customers are falling prey to scam artists.
FirstEnergy Corp. issued a statement Thursday warning customers to be wary of callers demanding immediate payment of the electric bill and urging them to make the payment by using a prepaid debit card.
The call most likely is a scam, said Ronald I. Green, FirstEnergy’s vice president for customer service.
“While we may phone a customer whose bill is in arrears in order to remind them that a payment is due, we would explain how a payment can be made using established payment options,” Green said.
The Akron-based electric company, which has Ohio Edison customers in the Massillon, Hartville and Alliance areas, is among several that have had customers victimized by the scam.
A handful of FirstEnergy customers in Cleveland, Toledo and the Ohio Edison service area have reported the scam, spokesman Mark Durbin said.
Columbus-based AEP has seen the problem throughout its service area, said Tammy Ridout, manager for media relations. The company is monitoring the problem, and working with other utilities that have had customers hit by the scam. Police also have been notified, she said.
In the scam, callers pose as a utility company employee and tell the customer their service will be shut off unless an immediate payment is made using a prepaid debit card such as a Green Dot card.
The Green Dot cards, which are bought at convenience stores, aren’t officially sanctioned by FirstEnergy company as a payment method.
Ridout said anyone wanting a customer to use a prepaid card to pay the electric probably is a scam artist. “AEP would never use that method,” she said.
AEP has used inserts in the monthly bill, a notice on the company website and a posting on Facebook in a bid to advise customers of the scam.
Customers always can use traditional payment methods, such has mailing it in with the bill statement or paying in person with an authorized agent. Most utility companies will accept credit cards to pay bills, or offer online payment programs.
If an Ohio Edison customer gets a call demanding payment, they should call FirstEnergy’s customer service number — 800-633-4766 — for assistance.