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DES MOINES, Iowa – (July 29, 2014) – Scam artists are at it again. MidAmerican Energy Company and local police have noted an increase in reports of suspicious calls and personal contacts from individuals posing as utility employees and threatening customers with service disconnection in an attempt to swindle funds.
Details vary, but most of the scams work like this: A resident or small-business owner receives a call from someone claiming to work for MidAmerican Energy or another local utility. The caller demands immediate payment of a past-due account or repair bill to avoid disconnection of natural gas or electric service. In some cases, the caller instructs the resident or business owner to purchase a Green Dot prepaid debit card and call back with the serial number from the card; in others, the scam artist requests personal credit card information in order to make immediate repairs to the customer’s meter.
These scams are so thorough that the recipient’s caller-ID display even makes it appear as though the calls are coming from the utility. Many of the scams target the elderly or those for whom English is a second language. Some small-business owners have received personal visits from scam artists demanding immediate payment.
MidAmerican Energy reminds customers that credit card information, account numbers and other personal information should never be provided in response to a suspicious or unsolicited call. To avoid falling victim to these scams, customers should: 1.) know their options when it comes to paying bills; 2.) contact MidAmerican Energy directly to make payment arrangements or learn about assistance programs available to them; and 3.) recognize the telltale signs of a scam attempt and report any such attempts to authorities.
1. Know your options. MidAmerican Energy customers have a number of bill-paying methods available to them. You can set up your account so payments are automatically deducted from a checking or savings account, or you can pay your bill each month via mail, online, over the phone, or in person at locations throughout MidAmerican Energy’s service area. More information is available in the Payment Options section of the MidAmerican Energy website.
2. Contact MidAmerican Energy for payment assistance. Sometimes customers do fall behind on their bills or struggle to meet their payment obligations. When this happens, MidAmerican Energy works with customers to help them manage their accounts in an effort to avoid overdue bills or disconnection of service. Customers should contact MidAmerican Energy’s customer service department at 888-427-5632 to learn about payment assistance programs that are available.
3. Recognize the signs of a scam. If you receive an unsolicited call demanding immediate payment of a utility bill and threatening disconnection, the following should cause you to question the legitimacy of the call:
- This is the first you’re hearing about a delinquent bill. MidAmerican Energy makes several attempts to contact customers regarding nonpayment of accounts before disconnecting service. These contacts may take the form of past-due notices, letters, door hangers, phone calls, emails or personal visits. Disconnection is a last resort, not a first step in the process.
- The caller asks for your account number or other personal information. MidAmerican Energy already has your MidAmerican Energy account number on file and will not call seeking this information. Do not supply personal information in response to suspicious or unsolicited calls; hang up and call MidAmerican Energy at 888-427-5632 to confirm the validity of the call.
- The caller insists on a Green Dot prepaid debit card as the only acceptable method of payment. MidAmerican Energy will never request that you purchase a prepaid debit card in order to avoid disconnection. MidAmerican Energy accepts several different forms of payment; your MidAmerican Energy customer service representative can let you know what options are available to you.
- A person visits your home or place of business and demands immediate payment to avoid disconnection. MidAmerican Energy personnel do not accept payments or process debit or credit card payments at a resident’s home or place of business. Verify any number provided to you for making a payment. Any MidAmerican Energy employee visiting your home or business regarding a past- due bill carries a company identification card and drives a company vehicle.
- The call originates from an unknown number, or the caller requests a return call to a cellphone or other unknown number. If MidAmerican Energy attempts to contact you regarding a bill or payment, the callback number will always be MidAmerican Energy’s customer service department: 888-427-5632, the number listed in the phone book and on MidAmerican Energy’s website; or 800-952-0112, the number listed on disconnect notices.
- The caller requests a credit card number in order to repair your meter or other equipment. Routine repairs or replacement of meters is the responsibility of MidAmerican Energy, not the customer. MidAmerican Energy will not call customers demanding payment for repairs to its equipment.
If you receive a suspicious call, hang up and report the call to MidAmerican Energy’s customer service department at 888-427-5632. MidAmerican Energy is working with law enforcement officials throughout our service territory to locate and stop scam artists. If you believe you’ve been the victim of a utility scam, contact your local police.
MidAmerican Energy Company provides electric service to 739,000 customers and natural gas service to 719,000 customers in Iowa, Illinois, Nebraska and South Dakota. It is headquartered in Des Moines, Iowa. Information about MidAmerican Energy is available on the company’s website, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube pages, which can be accessed via www.midamericanenergy.com.