What’s the best defense against utility scams? An informed consumer.
image credit: Public Service Commission of the District of Columbia
- May 21, 2020 4:15 pm GMTMay 21, 2020 2:03 pm GMT
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The one and only point of utility scams is to separate consumers from their money. Oftentimes you’ll hear that it’s older adults who are the victims of such scams, but it can happen to anyone — young, old, rich, poor, college-educated, or not — it doesn't matter. We’ve been working hard at the Public Service Commission of the District of Columbia to educate consumers about disconnection threats, “over payment” notifications and other common scams.
However, combating these threats has become a game of “whack-a-mole.” When one scam begins to fail, another comes along to take its place. The COVID-19 pandemic has unfortunately only increased the amount and frequency of these scams.
To help create an informed, vigilant consumer base, we’ve launched Fight Utility Scams, a one-stop shop microsite for consumers that provides tips, videos and community resources to help them respond to scams, such as individuals impersonating utility representatives over the phone, online or in person. We want utility consumers to feel empowered by taking control of the conversation. Our website raises awareness of the issue and educates customers about the warning signs of a utility scam.
While the DCPSC is leading this campaign, we’re not alone in tackling this issue. Local utility companies receive similar complaints from consumers, and we’ve joined forces to share a unified message. For example, I recently co-hosted a townhall webinar with Pepco and AARP DC to share details about common scams and, most importantly, answer consumer questions directly. We know that the average victim of a utility scam suffers about $500 in damages — a significant amount of money for most people. This unnecessary financial hardship, especially during a global pandemic, is something I personally want to eliminate.
We’ll continue to highlight the most common scams and tactics scammers are using on Fight Utility Scams and update the site as new scams appear. I look forward to hearing from other utility and regulatory professionals on the best ways to protect consumers, their families and our community.