Last year, scammers cost South Carolinians almost $14 million dollars, with the median loss of those targeted by scammers calculated at $326. By being smart about scams, you can save yourself money and time and keep from being retargeted in the future.
Per the FTC, the top scams in 2018 were imposter scams, wherein a scammer pretends to be someone they’re not. They might pretend to be a family member or friend in an email or they may pretend to be a representative of a utility company calling to get payment for a bill they claim has gone unpaid. It’s a system that led to 6,517 reports of imposter scams in SC last year alone. There’s good news, though—by keeping some simple tips in mind, you can ensure you’re not easy prey for scammers:
- Keep track of when you pay your bills, whether you pay online or through the mail. That way, if a scammer calls, claiming you haven’t paid your bill, you’re able to refresh your memory and prove to yourself that you have.
- Oftentimes, scammers use fear and anxiety to prey upon consumers—they may tell you that you are in immediate danger of having your utilities cut off. Legitimate utility representatives give significant notice before denying service, including a planned shut-off date.
- Remember that no reputable representative of a utility company will ask for your banking information. While many utilities allow you to pay over the phone, that won’t be the only option they give you—if someone says you can only pay your bill over the phone, that’s a huge red flag. Scammers might even tell you that you’ve overpaid, and that they need your banking information to issue you a refund—don’t believe them.
- Relatedly, remember that legitimate representatives of utility companies will give you payment options—if they ask to be paid in any non-traditional form of currency, including gift cards, reloadable cards, or cryptocurrency, they’re not legit.
- Unless you have reported a problem recently or have scheduled an appointment, representatives from utility companies won’t ask to come into your home to do maintenance tasks. Ask for identification and ask for the date and the amount of your most recent payment made to the utility company they claim to represent—that’s information a legitimate utility will have, and a scammer won’t.
- When in doubt, ask and report! The Office of Regulatory Staff has a consumer advocacy department, and they can help answer any questions you may have. If you believe you’ve been the victim of a scam, you can also reach out to the FTC by visiting this link.
For more information, please contact the Public Service Commission at 803.896.5100 or email Rob Bockman at [email protected].