Scammers continually target PRECO members, changing their tactics daily. Below are some of the most popular tricks employed by these individuals, followed by some tips our members can use to protect themselves and their finances.
Hang up on Phone Scams
Scammers call threatening disconnection of electric service, demanding payment immediately using prepaid cards purchased at local retail stores. PRECO will send one or more disconnection notices before disconnecting or shutting off electric service. The cooperative will also offer several billing payment options without specifying which type of payment must be made.
Bill Payment or Credit Con
Scammers may provide phony account routing numbers to pay utility bills. In exchange for personal information that can be used to steal your identity, they will provide a payment account number. If the number is entered during an online transaction, it may appear the utility has been paid, but no funds are actually paid, the account balance remains due, and late fees may be applied by the utility.
Equipment or Repair Bogus Fee
Scammers call demanding separate payments to replace or install a utility-related device or meter. If a utility needs to upgrade or replace equipment, it will contact you ahead of time as a courtesy. If there is a charge related to work on equipment members own, our members will be notified ahead of time and it will typically be included on the monthly billing statement.
Scammers call claiming overpayment has been made on an account and personal bank account or credit card information is needed to facilitate a refund. This is not true. PRECO typically applies any overpayments to accounts, allowing credit balances to cover any future charges, or refunds overpayments by mailing a check.
Power Restoration Rip Off
Scammers call offering to restore power quickly or in a preferential order for immediate payment or an upfront “reconnection fee,” typically in the aftermath of hurricanes and other severe storms causing widespread power outages. PRECO does not require payment to restore electricity after natural disasters, unless, of course, your service was disconnected for non-payment prior to the storm.
Smishing, short for SMS phishing, is a relatively new scam that attempts to trick mobile phone users into giving scammers personal information, which can be used for identity theft, via a text or SMS message. Scammers like smishing as members tend to be more inclined to trust text messages. PRECO will not text you unless you have signed up for a specific notification service we offer.
Scammers send suspicious emails that appear to be bills sent by PRECO – even going as far as to feature our logo and color scheme. Do NOT click on any links or attachments in any email unless the sender has been verified. These emails may link to a scam website designed to steal personal information or install malicious software onto computers. PRECO typically sends bills by mail, unless members have opted to receive bills electronically.
Protect Personal Information
Never provide or confirm personal information (Social Security number, date of birth) or financial information (banking account information, debit or credit card information) to anyone initiating contact with you, whether by phone, in-person, or email, claiming to represent PRECO. Never give out information or provide any payment information to any callers or individual(s) appearing at your home or business claiming to represent PRECO.
Take Your Time
Do not be rushed. If someone calls, appears or emails saying to pay bills immediately to avoid disconnection, hang up and call 800-282-3824 to verify it is PRECO. Beware if a caller or in-person representative exhibits anger or impatience when questioned. Scammers will discourage hang ups or calling the number listed on your bill.
Always Ask Questions
Ask the person calling or visiting to verify account numbers, last payment date, or provide their employee identification number. If he or she is a legitimate representative, this information is readily accessible. If not, hang up or shut the door, and call PRECO. Before providing any information or purchasing any products from someone appearing out of the blue, independently confirm their identity and the authenticity of their business by researching it online – verify the website and contact information and search for reviews.
Report the Scam to PRECO
Document what the scammer said, including their name, date, time, caller ID, employee identification, the method and amount of payment requested, phone numbers, and any other details that might be used to assist law enforcement.
Pay Your Utility Only
Never make payment to anyone calling on the phone, texting or emailing. Always call PRECO at the number provided on the bill or website if you have a question about payment or billing information. Know payment options offered by the co-op – online, by phone, automatic bank draft, mail, MoneyGram, payment kiosk or in person.
Stay Updated on Scams
Scammers constantly update their tactics; stay educated on new types of scams and tips to avoid them.