Duke Energy warns Indiana customers to be on guard against phone calls from scammers demanding utility customers pay their electric bill immediately or risk having their electric service disconnected within the hour.

“Scammers often try and take advantage of people during a crisis,” said Duke Energy Indiana President Stan Pinegar. “Because of the pandemic, we’ve temporarily suspended disconnections for nonpayment. We’ve had increased reports of scammers, though, threatening disconnections. The best way to defend yourself against these scammers is to recognize how the scam works and understand that Duke Energy never asks customers for prepaid debit cards.”

Typically, the customer receives an unsolicited phone call — sometimes an automated call — from an individual who falsely claims to be a Duke Energy representative demanding immediate payment, usually in the form of a prepaid debit card. Scammers have even duplicated the Duke Energy upfront Interactive Voice Response system, so when customers call back phone numbers provided by the scammer, it sounds like a legitimate Duke Energy phone number. Some of these criminals also use caller-ID spoofing to replicate a utility’s customer service number.

Red flags for scam activity• The caller becomes angry and tells the customer his or her account is past due and service will be disconnected if a large payment isn’t made — usually within the hour.

• The caller instructs the customer to purchase a pre-paid debit or credit card — widely available at retail stores — then call him or her back to supposedly make a payment to Duke Energy.

• The scammer asks the customer for the prepaid card’s receipt number and PIN number, which grants instant access to the card’s funds.

• The customer has received no other notice from Duke Energy that an account is overdue.

How to protect yourself• Duke Energy never asks or requires a customer with a delinquent account to purchase a prepaid debit card — or iTunes card — to avoid disconnection.

• Customers can make payments online, by phone, automatic bank draft, or mail.

• Customers with delinquent accounts receive advance disconnection notification with the regular monthly billing — never a single notification one hour before disconnection.

• Customers who suspect or experience fraud or feel threatened during contact with one of these thieves, should contact local law enforcement authorities and then the Duke Energy Indiana phone number listed on their bill (800.521.2232). Never dial the phone number the scammers provide.

Email Andrea Howe at andrea@pdclarion.com.

— Email Andrea Howe at andrea@pdclarion.com

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