Electric customers targeted by scam

CHARLESTON – Scammers are calling Appalachian Power customers and instructing them to make an immediate payment or have their service disconnected.

“In the last several days, we’ve received dozens of reports from customers who have been targeted by the scam,” said Jeri Matheney, Appalachian Power spokesperson. “Most of these have been in West Virginia, but experience tells us the scammers will soon move on to Virginia and Tennessee.”

In some cases, customers are ordered to purchase prepaid debit cards, such as a Vanilla or Green Dot, and call a toll-free number to provide the card information.  In a new twist, sometimes customers are told to pay in person.

Utility company scams unfortunately are common, although the tools scammers use are always changing. In this instance the scammer goes to great lengths to make the phony toll-free number appear authentic to customers who may be skeptical. When customers dial the number, they hear a recording that sounds genuine — but it isn’t.

“There’s an urgent, demanding nature to the calls, which should raise red flags,” Matheney said.

While there are instances when Appalachian Power will contact customers over the phone, the company does not demand immediate payment in this manner, she said.  Customers have 24 hours to make payment arrangements before disconnection.

Appalachian Power’s toll free numbers are provided on the company’s website, www.AppalachianPower.com. In West Virginia, the toll free number for Appalachian Power is 800-982-4237; in Virginia, it is 800-956-4237; and in Tennessee, the toll free number is 800-967-4237.

“If customers receive suspicious, urgent, demanding phone calls from someone claiming to be with Appalachian Power or AEP, we suggest they hang up and contact us at the toll-free number listed on their bills, or call local law enforcement,” Matheney said.

Here are some tips consumers can use to stop a scammer:

Confirm that you are speaking to a utility representative. If you have any concerns, tell the caller that you will independently check the phone number for the utility to verify the caller’s identity and information.

Be wary of anyone demanding immediate payment or payment in forms that are difficult to trace, such as Western Union, Vanilla or Green Dot cash cards.

Never give your credit card, debit card, Social Security, ATM, checking or savings account numbers, or any other personal identification numbers to anyone who comes to your home, calls or sends an email requesting information.

Never allow anyone claiming to be a utility service person into your home unless you have scheduled an appointment and the person has proper identification. Lock the door and contact police if you become concerned about your safety.

More tips can be found at https://www.appalachianpower.com/account/bills/scams/