05-06-2020 — Don't Fall Victim to Utility Scams
Recently, residential electric customers in Stoughton were targeted with a common utility scam by a person claiming to be an employee of WE Energy and stating their service will be disconnected if payment was not made over the phone within 30 minutes. Scammers frequently take advantage of worried utility customers using the threat of disconnection for unpaid bills to squeeze money out of businesses and residential customers.
There are a few variations of this scam:
Every year, variations of a utility scam pop up in various Wisconsin communities, including Stoughton and Madison. In all cases the scammer preys upon people's fears, frequently in low-income neighborhoods, and uses high-pressure intimidation tactics to get the victim to make a payment.
- A person arrives at your home or business and demands immediate payment on the spot to avoid disconnection
- A person calls your home or business and states you will be disconnected within a short period of time unless you make an immediate payment over the phone using a prepaid debit card or wire transfer. Several businesses in Stoughton were recently targeted with this scam.
- A person visits your home or business offering utility payment assistance. If you pay some money up front, they will match it or provide additional funds to assist in payment.
- A person calls or visits your home or business stating that the meter is malfunctioning and needs to be replaced at your expense, or that an unpaid new customer deposit is due and failure to pay immediately will result in disconnection.
Stoughton Utilities is not currently disconnecting any customers for nonpayment of bills.
What to look for if you receive a call or visit...To avoid falling victim to a scam, keep the following in mind:
- We will never contact you by phone or in-person and demand immediate payment.
- We will never require payment by prepaid debit card or wire transfer, or any other specific payment method. We accept payment by your choice of check, credit/debit card, money order, or cash (at our office).
- We will never accept a customer payment in the field. Utility staff is prohibited from requesting or accepting any type of payment when visiting your home or business. All cash payments must be made at our office.
- We will never request your social security or driver's license number over the phone or at your home. When we contact you, we will have all your specific account information, including name, address, account number, and balance.
- We will never require a payment to repair or replace an electric or water meter.
- We will always arrive at your home in a marked vehicle. Stoughton Utilities field staff uses white trucks with the blue SU logo on the door.
- We will always carry photo identification with our name, photo, and the SU logo printed on the plastic ID card.
Always be cautious...If you are ever in doubt of a call you receive, immediately end the call and contact SU Customer Service at (608) 873-3379. We will verify whether or not it was an employee that contacted you. Scammers can manipulate the caller ID to mask their number and make it appear they are calling from the utility, so exercise caution even if the caller ID states it is coming from our phone number.
If anyone claiming to be a Stoughton Utilities employee visits your home or business, request to see their utility ID card. If they appear and request money, immediately call the police. If you are ever in doubt about a technician's visit, contact SU Customer Service at (608) 873-3379 to verify the employee's identity and the cause for their visit.
When we will contact you regarding delinquent accounts...Stoughton Utilities follows a normal schedule leading up to any scheduled service disconnection. We will always first attempt to contact you by mail at least once if your service is at risk of being disconnected. For unpaid bills, our schedule is as follows:
- Your regular monthly billing statement is mailed, and in all cases you will have at least twenty days to make payment
- At least 10 days prior to any scheduled disconnection, a bright-pink notice that contains your utility account information will be mailed.
- Two days prior to any scheduled disconnection, we will make an automated phone call to the phone number(s) on file. This call will contain your name, account number, delinquent balance, and scheduled date of disconnection.
- One day prior to any scheduled disconnection, we will make an automated phone call to the phone number(s) on file. This final notice will contain your name, account number, delinquent balance, and scheduled date of disconnection.
- If we do not have a phone number on file, we will hand-deliver a final disconnection notice at least one day prior to any scheduled disconnection. This notice will contain your account information for your home or business, including your name, address, account number, and delinquent balance. This notice will typically be attached to your front door.