Scam alert: Customer's utility bills targeted

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Utility companies across Florida are warning customers about a scam targeting customer's utility bills.

The scammers are calling businesses and impersonating utility staff, claiming to be collecting on late bills. The scam has become so pervasive, the Attorney General's Office has even issued a warning.

Recently, an Alachua County business owner fell victim to the scam, and attempts have also been reported in Clay, Putnam and Lake counties.

Here's how the scam works:

  • A business receives a phone call from what they think is their utility company, claiming they have an overdue bill -- the caller ID may even display the utility company's name and phone number
  • The caller threatens to shut off the power if the company does not pay in upwards of $500 via money wire or credit card
  • The caller may also say a letter was mailed out months earlier announcing the installation of new meters and that the letter was ignored.

News4Jax Crime and Safety Analyst Gil Smith said it's important that people remember never to hand over credit card information.

"Just ask them the account number because they may not have that, and their name and their information. Don't pay the bill and don't call that same number back," said Smith. "Now, most billing agents have a customer service number. Call that number that you know is a legitimate number and ask them the billing status."

If a call like this is received, people are urged to call the Better Business Bureau and report it. The attorney general has also set up a fraud hotline for anyone who has been victimized.

The fraud hotline number to call is (866) 966-7226.

Most importantly, experts said if you have any doubt about who is on the other end of line, hang up.

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