Chesterton Tribune



OUCC warns folks about delinquent utility bill scam

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Consumers need to be aware of an ongoing scam targeting utility customers in Indiana and throughout the U.S., the Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor (OUCC) said.

Under the scam, a consumer may receive a phone call from someone claiming to work for his or her electric utility, with a fake number showing on the consumer’s caller ID. The caller will claim the customer has a delinquent bill, threaten to disconnect service, and demand immediate payment, often with a prepaid debit card.

Several Indiana utilities have warned their customers about the scam, but all consumers need to be aware because the scam’s full extent is still unknown, the OUCC said.

“If someone calls you, claims to be from your utility, and demands immediate payment, hang up and do not give out any personal or financial information,” Indiana Utility Consumer Counselor David Stippler said. “Then, call your utility at the customer service number that appears on your bill. The utility should be made aware of the contact and can verify your account status at any time.”

Under Indiana law, an electric or natural gas utility under Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC) jurisdiction--such as the Northern Indiana Public Service Company, Citizens Gas, Duke Energy, Indiana Michigan Power, Indianapolis Power & Light, or Vectren Energy Delivery--must provide a customer with a written notice at least 14 days before it disconnects service for non-payment.

A water utility under IURC jurisdiction must provide written notice at least seven days in advance. Exceptions to the rule include life-threatening situations, equipment tampering, and fraudulent use of service.

Utilities outside IURC jurisdiction (including rural electric membership cooperatives and most municipal electric and water utilities) establish disconnection policies locally, and customers are encouraged to know their utilities’ rules.



Posted 10/3/2013