Utility companies receive reports of ongoing scams, urge vigilance
ORANGE, CT — November 1, 2022 — AVANGRID, Inc. (NYSE: AGR) and its companies in Connecticut are urging customers to be wary of scammers posing as representatives of trusted energy companies.
AVANGRID — the parent company of the United Illuminating Company (UI), Southern Connecticut Gas (SCG) and Connecticut Natural Gas (CNG) — has received multiple reports of scammers threatening to disconnect gas or electric service unless the customer makes an immediate payment over the phone using a prepaid debit card. While most customers recognize these calls as scams, a small number have been persuaded to make payments.
“It’s an old swindle with some new twists, and we urge all customers to be vigilant should they field a suspicious phone call,” said Tracey Pelella, Vice President of Customer Service at AVANGRID’s Connecticut companies. “We have been notified of successful scammers who have defrauded customers with cryptocurrency payments. While AVANGRID’s Connecticut companies have a variety of ways for customers to pay their bills, we will never request that a customer pay with cryptocurrency.”
Caller ID may show the call is coming from the utility. In some cases, the perpetrators seem to have specific knowledge about the customers they’re calling, and may even provide a callback number with a recorded greeting similar to the energy company’s customer service line.
Typically, the caller informs the customer that a crew is on the way to shut off service unless an immediate payment is made. Perpetrators may tell the customer that the company had not received a recent payment or incorrectly processed a payment, so the customer must pay again. The scammer often demands the victim purchase a prepaid debit card (“Green Dot” is a common brand) to make the payment. This is a sure sign of a scam.
In recent months, the company has also been notified of scammers defrauding customers with new tactics. Scammers have successfully defrauded energy customers by requesting cryptocurrency payments over the phone after posing as an energy company. Customers have also been asked by scammers to travel to specific locations to pay their bills.
Additionally, perpetrators often target commercial establishments such as restaurants, sandwich shops, or markets shortly before their busiest lunch or dinner periods. However, residential customers have also reported receiving calls.
Customers should verify all information before making payments over the phone, and should recognize the following red flags:
- It doesn’t add up: UI, SCG, and CNG don’t call customers for payment if the account is in good standing.
- Timing and urgency: If a customer falls behind on payments, customers will receive a notice with specific instructions, and will have an opportunity to pay or enter a payment arrangement. AVANGRID’s companies do not disconnect service on Fridays, weekends, State holidays, or any time the Customer Care Center is closed.
- Demanding a specific form of payment: AVANGRID companies accept a variety of payment types, including credit cards, check, and more. These options can be found on the company’s website. If a caller insists on payment via a prepaid debit card — especially a specific brand of prepaid card — it is a scam.
Simple steps customers can take to protect themselves include:
- Check account status: Creating an online profile at the company’s website is a quick way to check account status. Customers can also call the company’s Customer Care Center at the number found on the bill or the company’s website. (Do not use callback numbers provided by unsolicited callers). Representatives can verify account status and work with customers to resolve any issues.
- Check ID: Employees of all AVANGRID companies carry company-issued IDs. Ask for ID from any in-person visitor and call the company to verify their identity and nature of their business. Use the number on the company’s bill or website. Our employees are happy to comply with an identity verification request.
- Protect personal information: Customers should never share personal or financial information, including outstanding balances, without first verifying whom they’re speaking with.
- Collect evidence: Customers that suspect a scam are urged to get the name and number from caller ID, if available, write down any call-back number provided, and take notes on what the caller said. This will help investigators work with authorities to shut down the scam.
- Report it: Customers should report the scam to the utility, local law enforcement, and the Federal Trade Commission (http://www.ftc.gov/). This will help authorities shut down scams and prosecute the scammers.
- Enroll in AutoPay: The amount due is automatically deducted from a bank account each month, so customers will have no concerns about an outstanding balance. More information on this payment option is available on the company’s website.
# # #
About UI: The United Illuminating Company (UI) is a subsidiary of AVANGRID, Inc. Established in 1899, UI operates approximately 3,600 miles of electric distribution lines and 138 miles of transmission lines. It serves approximately 341,000 customers in the greater New Haven and Bridgeport areas of Connecticut. UI received the Edison Electric Institute’s Emergency Response Award in 2019 and 2021. For more information, visit uinet.com.
About SCG: The Southern Connecticut Gas Company (SCG) is a subsidiary of AVANGRID, Inc. Established in 1847, SCG operates approximately 2,500 miles of natural gas distribution pipelines, serving approximately 206,000 customers in the greater New Haven and Bridgeport areas of Connecticut. For more information, visit soconngas.com.
About CNG: Connecticut Natural Gas Corporation (CNG) is a subsidiary of AVANGRID, Inc. Established in 1848, CNG operates approximately 2,200 miles of natural gas distribution pipeline, serving approximately 183,000 customers across 26 communities in the greater Hartford-New Britain area, and Greenwich, Connecticut. For more information, visit cngcorp.com.