Wednesday, June 5, 2013

BBB Alert: Utility Shutoff Scam

Roanoke, VA (June 5, 2013) “We’re shutting off the power in 30 minutes unless you make this payment. Go ahead and call the police; your power is still going off.”

The Roanoke restaurant couldn’t afford to have the power shutoff; it was the middle of their dinner shift!

“At first I was really worried,” said the restaurant owner, “but something just didn’t seem right so I stalled.”

A patron at the restaurant called AEP- sure enough it was a scam, the power was not going off, the owner hung up the phone.

A utility shutoff scam that has been spotted in several other states has made its way to Virginia. Several consumers report receiving phone calls purporting to be from AEP claiming the power will be shutoff within minutes if the company does not pay upwards of $500 through a money wire or pre-paid debit card. The callers claim a letter was mailed out in January announcing the installation of new meters, and that the targeted company ignored the letter and now must pay.

Appalachian Power wants consumers to know the company will never call customers in such a manner.

“Utility company scams are unfortunately too common. Appalachian Power customers should know that we don’t take payments over the phone,” said Todd Burns from Appalachian Power Corporate Communications. “If they are unsure about the situation, please hang up and contact Appalachian Power at the toll-free number on their bill or contact us through our website.”

The BBB in Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Idaho, and Ohio have all reported recent similar scams pretending to represent utility companies in those states. In some reported cases, scammers have even shown up at the front door of businesses demanding these payments. In other cases the scammers have told businesses their monthly utility payment is overdue

Julie Wheeler, President and CEO of BBB Serving Western VA, said even a consumer’s caller ID can be manipulated by scammers. “These scammers are making these calls using an internet Voice Over IP which can make the call appear to be from anywhere in the country,” said Wheeler. “We advise our consumers to just hang up the phone and call their utility company immediately,”

Some BBB Tips:

  • 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. The toll free number for Virginia AEP consumers is 800-277-2177.
  • Be wary of anyone demanding immediate payment or payment in forms that are difficult to trace, such as Western Union, MoneyGram or GreenDot MoneyPak cash cards.
  • Never give your credit card, debit card, Social Security, ATM, checking or savings account 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. Contact police if you become concerned about your safety.
  • If you believe you may be the victim of a scam, you may contact your utility company, or you may call the BBB at 1-800-851-6869.

If you need more information, contact the BBB at (540) 342-3455 or (800) 533-5501. You can also visit  Follow us on Twitter at

Posted By Valerie Garner

Categories: Community

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