AUGUSTA, Maine - Central Maine Power today is alerting customers of yet another phone scam, this one featuring players posing as utility company representatives.
The scam has been occurring nationwide over the past several years. While few calls had been received in Maine through July of this year, activity has ramped up in recent days. Scammers threaten to cut service unless the customer makes an immediate payment over the phone using a prepaid debit card.
In some instances, a tactic called "spoofing" is used where the calls may appear on a Caller ID as the utility company. In other cases, the perpetrators provide callback numbers that answer with the same recorded greeting as the utility's customer service line. Some efforts even included a confirmation e-mail in the rare event a customer completes a payment.
Typically, the caller informs the customer a crew is on the way to shut off service unless an immediate payment is made. The perpetrators may tell the customer they had not received a recent payment or they had incorrectly processed a payment, so the customer must pay again. The scammer often demands the victim purchase a prepaid debit card ("Green Dot" is a common brand) to make the payment.
What Customers Should Do If Contacted:
Ø Hang Up. If the conversation is suspicious, hang up immediately before information is exchanged.
Ø Report it. Customers should report the scam to CMP (1.800.750.4000), local law enforcement, and the Federal Trade Commission (http://www.ftc.gov/). This will help authorities shut down scams and prosecute the scammers.
Ø CMP never calls customers for payment if the account is in good standing.
Ø If a customer falls behind on payments, CMP sends a letter and will call the customer before proceeding with disconnection. Additionally, CMP does not disconnect service on Friday or during the weekend.
Ø CMP accepts a variety of payment types, including credit cards, bank transfers and more, but will never demand a specific form of payment. If a caller insists on payment via a prepaid debit card -- especially a specific brand of prepaid card -- hang up immediately.
Steps customers can take to protect themselves:
Ø Protect personal information. Customers should never share personal or financial information, including outstanding balances, without first verifying whom they're speaking with.
Ø Verify identity: The identity of any CMP employee can be verified by asking for their photo ID card (if in person) or their employee number, then contacting CMP at 1.800.750.4000 to verify their identity and the nature of their business. Our employees are happy to comply with an identity verification request.
Ø Check account status. Create an online profile at the CMP website as a quick way to check account status or call CMP's customer service line (1.800.750.4000 for residential customers or 1.800.565.3181 for business customers). Customer representatives can verify account status and work with customers to resolve any issues.
Ø Enroll in CMP's AutoPay service. The amount due is automatically deducted from a bank account each month, so customers will have no concerns about an outstanding balance. More information on this payment option is athttp://www.cmpco.com/YourAccount/payyourbill/paymentoptions/autopay.html.
Ø Additional information on avoiding scams can be found at CMP's website:http://www.cmpco.com/YourAccount/payyourbill/PaymentScams.html.