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Consumers have long been targets for utility scams. Fraudsters have changed their tactics since the COVID-19 pandemic began. As consumers became more reliant on technology for work, school and commerce, scammers adapted their tactics.
Imposter scams are the No. 1 type of fraud reported to the Federal Trade Commission. While scam artists may come to your door posing as a utility worker for the power company, in today’s more connected world, attempts are more likely to come through email, phone or text.
A scammer may claim you are overdue on your electric bill and threaten to disconnect your service if you don’t pay immediately. The scammers want to scare you into immediate payment so you don’t have time to think clearly.
If this happens over the phone, simply hang up. If you’re concerned about your bill, call Benton REA at 509-786-2913. The Benton REA phone number can also be found at www.BentonREA.org and on your electric bill.
If the scam is by email or text, contact Benton REA or log in to your SmartHub account to check your amount due.
Benton REA will never demand immediate payment after just one notice. First, you will receive a billing statement with a past-due balance by mail or email. Then, a Benton REA meter reader will leave a pink door hanger at the property subject to disconnection. If the account is not paid by the date on the door hanger, a serviceman will disconnect the electricity.
Some scammers falsely claim you have been overcharged on your bill and offer a refund. It sounds easy. All you have to do is click or press a button. If you proceed, you will be prompted to provide banking or other personal information. Instead of money going into your bank account, the scammers can drain your account and steal your personal information such as your Social Security number.
If this refund scam happens over the phone, hang up and block the phone number to prevent future robocalls.
If this scam attempt occurs via email—known as a phishing attempt—or by text, do not click any links. Instead, delete it, and if possible, block the sender.
If you overpay on your bill, Benton REA will automatically apply the credit to your next billing cycle.
Be wary of calls or texts from unknown numbers. Be suspicious of an unknown person claiming to be a utility worker who requests banking or other personal information.
Never let anyone into your home that you don’t know unless you have a scheduled appointment. Benton REA employees wear apparel with the cooperative’s logo and carry photo ID badges. If you are suspicious, ask to see identification and call Benton REA to verify their employment.
Benton REA wants to help protect the community against utility scams. You can help create the first line of defense. Please report any potential scams to Benton REA so the cooperative can spread the word to prevent others in the community from falling victim.