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How retirees are getting duped by phony power company scam artists

May 2, 2012, 8:39 a.m.

Scam artists these days are getting increasingly bold in their efforts at parting you with your hard earned money, and they'll seemingly stop at nothing to accomplish their aims. More and more, these criminals are targeting retirees because they think they're easy targets. Which is why it's essential that you bone up on your scam detection skills. One of the newest tactics employed by these thieves are power company scams. Here's how they work.

The scenario usually unfolds the same way. You're sitting at home having dinner or entertaining friends or just going about your life minding your business, when the phone rings. On the other end is someone representing themselves as an employee of the local electric company, who proceeds to tell you that unless you recite them your credit card digits, your electricity will be shut off. They'll then proceed to tell you that the last check you mailed in was never received, adding to your confusion and concern.

What most people who receive calls like this are unaware of is the fact that these power company fraud calls are just that -- a total fraud. But there are a few ways that you can detect whether or not you're talking to a criminal who makes his or her living perpetrating power company scams.

If you are legitimately past due, you'll know it. No electric company is going to surprise you with a phone call giving you an ultimatum unless you've already been sent repeat notices by mail.

If it's a legitimate call, the electric company employee on the other end of the line will never ask you to confirm your account number with them. If you're asked for this information, demand that they provide you the information so that you can verify they're legitimate. Remember, they called you.

Ask for the person's callback number and take it down. Identity thieves will usually see this as proof you're not falling for their line and will very likely hang up. If you are given a callback number, however, you can compare it against the number on your bill to see if it's legitimate. Hang up and call the power company directly.

If at any point you believe that you've been contacted by a scammer trying to steal your credit card number or your identity, hang up and call your electric company by dialing the phone number on your bill. This way, you'll ensure that you're actually speaking to the electric company and you can ask to confirm if your account really is past due. You can also report the phone call directly to the electric company's fraud division.

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