Minneapolis – Feb. 23, 2018 – In response to rash of utility scams targeting customers around the country, CenterPoint Energy is calling for extra vigilance.
Posing as utility company employees, scammers are using multiple tactics to tell customers they are behind on their bills and have a short time to make a payment or their service will be shut off at the meter. Don't fall victim to utility scam phone calls, emails or text messages from individuals claiming to represent CenterPoint Energy.
"Criminals posing as utility company representatives are after two things: our customers' money or personal information," said Carlos White, corporate security for CenterPoint Energy. "Current scams include service disconnection calls to small commercial businesses, job offer scams and fake payment scams. We have also heard reports of phone calls or visits from people going door-to-door trying to collect money fraudulently by claiming utility bills are overdue and must be paid immediately."
CenterPoint Energy's Manager of Data Privacy, Kevin Marquardt, added, "The practice of SMShing to steal identities is also on the rise. A SMShing attack is sent via an SMS (short message service) message – better known simply as a text message and occurs when a scammer attempts to dupe a potential victim into clicking on a malicious link in a text message on their mobile phone. Protecting personal and financial customer data is of utmost importance to CenterPoint Energy."
If you are contacted by a possible scammer, discontinue contact immediately. If something sounds too good to be true, it may be a fraud. Be aware that scammers often use Caller ID spoofing software to misrepresent the source of a phone call or provide you with a fake "verification" phone number. If you need to verify your account status, call Customer Service at 800-245-2377 or log in to your account on our website.
If you suspect a scam or fraud, report it to your local police, the FBI, the Federal Trade Commission and your local Better Business Bureau. To avoid falling victim to any scam, CenterPoint Energy reminds customers of the following:
- While utility companies do contact customers whose accounts are overdue, they will first do so through the mail, only sending in-person representatives to collect payments after they have made every attempt to work with you to keep your account current. Even then, they will have proper identification and welcome you to call the utility company to verify their identity. Neither they nor phone representatives will demand that payments be made via a reloadable debit card.
- Never let anyone come into your home to check electrical wiring, natural gas pipes, water pipes, or appliances unless you have scheduled an appointment or have reported a problem and always ask to see – and verify – a company identification badge before discussing account information or letting an employee near you or into your home.
- Be aware that many utility companies offer payment options if your natural gas account is in arrears or if you need assistance. CenterPoint Energy customers can visit our website for assistance.
- Take your time and always ask questions if you suspect a scammer.
- Delete deceptive emails.
- Verify job postings and employment offerings.
The Better Business Bureau is closely tracking these types of scams and have provided informative social media information to help protect the public.
CenterPoint Energy, Inc., headquartered in Houston, Texas, is a domestic energy delivery company that includes electric transmission & distribution, natural gas distribution and energy services operations. The company serves more than five million metered customers primarily in Arkansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Texas. The company also owns 54.1 percent of the common and subordinated units representing limited partner interests in Enable Midstream Partners, a publicly traded master limited partnership it jointly controls with OGE Energy Corp., which owns, operates and develops natural gas and crude oil infrastructure assets. With more than 7,700 employees, CenterPoint Energy and its predecessor companies have been in business for more than 150 years. For more information, visit the website at CenterPointEnergy.com.