The unpaid utility bill scam is making a comeback in the area. Despite being one of the oldest scams, it still happens because it sounds so official.

This is a type of phishing scam in which hackers pose as representatives of a company you do business with to get money from you. In this case, they pretend to be from the electric company, and their strategy for getting money out of you is threatening to shut off your power.

This scam can take several forms. Sometimes, you get an email that looks like it’s from the utility, claiming that the company is going to shut off your power because you haven’t paid your bill. In other cases, you get a phone call with the same information, or a person might even show up at your door.

The next part of the scam is always the same: The scammers say you must pay your bill immediately to avoid having your power shut off. Sometimes, they request your bank or credit card information. Other times, they ask for payment in a form that’s harder to trace, such as a wire transfer, prepaid debit card, or even cryptocurrency. Scammers who come to your door may even ask you to pay in cash on the spot.

Of course, real power companies, like JOEMC, contact you if your bill is late, and they can cut off your power if you fall too far behind. However, there are several ways to tell a legitimate request from a scam.

If you actually are behind on your electric bill, you want to make sure you pay it before your power gets cut off. If you get an email, phone call, or visitor threatening to cut off your electricity, here’s what to do:

  • Don’t trust your Caller ID. Even if the call appears to come from the real electric company, that’s no proof that it’s legit. These days, call spoofing software makes it very easy for spammers to make a call appear to come from any number they want.
  • Don’t give them anything. Even if you think a call or email might be legitimate, never give out any payment information or any other personal information.
  • Check your real account. If you’re concerned that you may really be behind on your electric bill, contact the utility to check. You can log in to your account on the company’s website or call its toll-free number to check your account status. However, make sure you’re using the company’s real website or phone number as shown on your bill. If you click a link in an email, it’s likely to take you to a spoofed website that may look like the utility’s real site. Likewise, phone scammers sometimes tell you to call them back at a fake phone number that uses an exact replica of the real energy company’s recorded welcome message.