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Utility companies warn of scams

Local utility companies are stepping up efforts to warn customers about a scam in which callers purport to represent energy providers and demand immediate payment under threat of disconnection.

Duke Energy announced a radio campaign Monday that aims to educate consumers in its southwest Ohio market about the “emergency payment scam.” Dayton Power & Light has been including inserts about the scam in its bills. First Energy, Vectren and several consumer protection agencies have also pushed out alerts to Ohio customers about the scam.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine issued an alert reporting at least two Ohio utility customers losing $800 each to this scam.

“It’s important to remember that any time you receive an unexpected call, you have the right to ask questions, demand answers, or simply hang up,” DeWine said.

The ploy involves a demand that people purchase a prepaid credit or debit card to avoid disconnection. Once the consumer purchases the card they are directed to call back and give the PIN number or other information to the caller.

“DP&L gets calls periodically from customers who have been taken advantage of by scammers using different cons to get personal information or cash in fraudulent ways. Some have asked for pre-paid debit cards to pay a bill or replace equipment,” the DP&L notice says.

“The radio campaign is just another way to educate the public,” said Duke Energy spokeswoman Kristina Hill. She said they receive numerous calls each day from people who have been targeted by this scam.

Both companies, along with First Energy, urge anyone who receives a suspicious call about payment to call their customer service numbers and make sure the request was legitimate.

“We tell our customers before they do anything to call our customer contact center,” said Ohio Edison spokesman Mark Durbin.

All three electric companies said they would not demand immediate payment in this way. They all offer multiple ways to pay electric bills including by mail, online or in person and will send multiple communications about delinquent accounts before disconnection.

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