Keith Smith, owner of Burger 21 and Pete Smith Automotive, said scammers called both of his businesses.
"The manager called and said there is this group in the neighborhood from Duke Energy. They are going to turn our power off, and they want our credit card number," Smith explained.
Before taking any action, he called Duke Energy to see where the billing mistake happened. Smith was reassured this was all a scam. He said, "We are pretty good at keeping our bills paid on time."
The threat of losing power can be stressful, even if you pay your bills on time.
"You're done, you're just shut down. You can't do anything without power," Smith said.
Duke Energy representative Meredith Archie said, "The scam has been a long-running problem for Duke Energy."
Now, the company has teamed up with 40 other utility companies across the United States and Canada to raise awareness about the scam.
The utility collaboration is being called Utilities United Against Scams. The companies are planning a week-long campaign that will focus on identifying the scam and helping customers.
The scam phone call can seem real. Archie said.
"Scammers have become very sophisticated. Spoofing our caller ID, spoofing our recordings," Archie said. "If you call back, it will be a Duke Energy recording."
Archie said there are many red flags, however.
"They often ask for prepaid debit or credit cards, or money orders. We will never request our customers pay in this manner," she said.
The scammers typically become angry when they tell the customer the payment is past due. They threaten to disconnect the customers' service if a large payment is not made quickly.
If you think someone is trying to scam you, hang up. Then, call the Duke Energy number provided at the bottom of your bill. Never call the number the scammers give you.
It's important to remember that Duke Energy will never demand immediate payment.
"You will get multiple notifications if you're behind on your bill," Archie said.
Archie adds that Duke Energy will not ask or require customers to purchase pre-paid cards to avoid disconnection. Customers can make payments to Duke Energy online, over the phone, through automatic bank draft, through mail or in person.
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