New twist on utility scams brings face-to-face intimidation - WFMJ.com News weather sports for Youngstown-Warren Ohio

New twist on utility scams brings face-to-face intimidation

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YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio -

Utility scams are nothing new. But now, just in time for Christmas, there's a new twist that adds an intimidating tactic to the crime. 

A phone call demands money for a utility that's allegedly going to be shut off. In advance scams, called "spoofing", the number on the caller ID will even say it is the utility. 

But now there's a new twist impacting consumers in Youngstown. It's a new tactic that Ohio Edison says they've only begun to hear of in the last few days. 

The latest scam adds an in-person factor. 

The scammers even called our newsroom. 

Here's how it works: you receive a phone call from a caller ID that says "Ohio Edison". The person on the other end of the line insists that your electric will be shut off in 45 minutes because you failed to respond to a letter about equipment replacement. 

The scammer then insists that if you don't pay them, your utility will be shut off. 

Several viewers who called into 21 News said that the scammer then insists a representative will be arriving at your home shortly to replace equipment and collect your payment. 

Viewers say that a person then arrives at their home, carrying a business card, and demanding payment and to be let into the home to replace a piece of equipment. 

A spokesperson for FirstEnergy was shocked by the new scam. 

Mark Durbin, the spokesman for Ohio Edison, told 21 News that consumers need to know that Ohio Edison will never conduct business in this way. 

Durbin says first and foremost, utility companies will never call you unsolicited- even if you're behind on a payment. If your balance is overdue, Durbin says the company will send you an email or a letter asking that you contact them. 

Durbin said as far as the phone call part of the scam, consumers should immediately hang up and call the Ohio Edison Customer Service Center 1-800-633-4766. 

AS for the new twist- Durbin said that all Ohio Edison employees must present their official identification, and they will arrive in a truck with the Ohio Edison logo. 

If the person at your door refuses to show identification or doesn't have a company vehicle, Durbin says to close the door and call the police. 

Even the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio says that if anything feels intimidating, threatening, or suspicious, close the door and call the utility or police. If the person at your door is really from the company they will understand, and if it's a scammer, you may have saved yourself from becoming a victim. 

Durbin told 21 News that the best thing consumers can do to keep themselves safe is to be aware. He said customers should always know whether their account is up to date on payments or not. Even if the account isn't up to date, or has a missed payment, Durbin says customers should know that Ohio Edison will never demand immediate payment over the phone. 

Apart from that Durbin echoed PUCO's sentiment, saying that consumers should step back and check their account balance that they receive monthly through mail or email. 

If you see Ohio Edison on your caller ID, Durbin suggests not answering the phone, since any important communication will be done via mail. 

And lastly, Durbin says if anyone shows up at your home, without an appointment or identification, immediately call the police. 
 

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