The electricity bill payment scam is on the rise in in Texas. Scammers will call you pretending to be from your light company and demand payment. They’ll threaten to turn your electricity off if you don’t pay right away.
Here’s how to tell an electricity bill payment scam from a real disconnection notice from your electricity company. And how to avoid getting ripped off.
What are Electricity Payment Scam Phone Calls
Consumers are reporting Centerpoint Energy scam calls and Oncor payment scam calls. Centerpoint and Oncor are two of the utility companies in Texas, also called Transmission and Distribution Service Providers (TDSPs).
The typical payment scam call starts with a call from a local number. With VOIP (voice over internet protocol) phones, the caller ID may even show the name and phone number of your utility company.
The caller will tell you that your bill is overdue. They may even have information about your account, such as your account number, address and Electricity Service Identifier (ESID). They’ll say that you must pay the bill immediately to avoid being disconnected.
Then they will say you must make the payment over the phone, and demand your banking or credit card information.
They may also require that you pay by a specific method. For example, they may tell you that you must pay using a GreenDot or other prepaid debit card. Or they may tell you that you have to pay using CashApp or Western Union. The common element between these payment methods? Once you make the payment, the money is gone. Your bank or credit card company can’t help you dispute the fraud and the money is untraceable.
Electricity Payment Scam vs. Real Electricity Company – How to Tell The Difference
Here’s an easy way to tell the difference between an electricity payment scam versus a real disconnect notice. In Texas:
- Your deregulated TDSP or utility company will never call you to request payment.
- Your electricity provider will always mail you a disconnection notice.
TIP: If you receive a phone call from your electricity delivery company (Centerpoint, Oncor, TNMP, AEP North or AEP Central) threatening disconnection? It’s a fraud. Hang up and call your electricity provider at the phone number on your electricity bill.
Electricity Company Disconnection Notice
If you get a disconnection notice for your electricity in Texas, there are certain rules the electricity company must follow.
- They must mail you a disconnection notice.
- The disconnection date must be at least 10 days from the date the notice is issued and not a weekend or holiday.
- You’ll get this in the mail separate from your bill. The notice will clearly say “disconnection notice.” And, some notices will be a different color, like pink or yellow, to differentiate it from a normal bill.
- The notice will include the disconnection date, the total past due charges and all reconnect fees.
- You’ll have information in both English and Spanish
- The notice will also include the phone number and hours for your electricity provider’s customer service.
- The notice will include how to pay the bill and how to request a deferred payment plan.
If you are concerned about disconnection, always reach out to your electricity company to talk to them about it. You can get help paying electric bill.
TIP: Your electricity provider will never require you to pay with a specific kind of credit or debit card. For example, if the caller says you must go buy a Green Dot card to pay your bill? It’s a scam. If the caller says you must send them money immediately via CashApp or Western Union? It’s a scam.
How to Identify a Utility Bill Payment Scam
Disconnection phone calls is the scam that consumers are reporting across Texas. But here are some ways you can identify there’s a bill payment scam in progress.
- In-person payment collector. Your electricity company will not show up at your door to collect money from you.
- Requiring a type of payment: If you’re required to pay by cash, wire transfer, CashApp or a prepaid debit card, it’s a scam. You can’t trace or reverse these payments. That’s why scammers require these payment methods.
- You feel threatened. A real customer service professional from your electricity company will not threaten you or yell at you.
- You didn’t receive a notice in the mail. Your electricity supplier must send you a disconnection notice in the mail. And many companies will also send you a second notice and an email before disconnection.
Here are more tips from Centerpoint Energy to avoid payment scams.
How to Report an Electricity Bill Payment Scam
Reporting a scammer helps the authorities shut down utility payment scams. If recognize any of the signs of a scam, here’s what you can do:
- Immediately hang up the phone.
- Contact the local utility company to report the call.
- Contact your electricity provider using the phone number on your bill. Let them know about the call and confirm that you don’t have a balance due.
- Report the call to the Texas Attorney General’s Office
Above all, be aware, be cautious and protect your finances and private information. And know, when you follow these steps, you can help to stop these criminals!