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Business Alert: Utility Shut-off Scam
The Cuyahoga County Department of Consumer Affairs warns restaurants and stores to guard themselves against utility shutoff scams as these types of calls may increase during the upcoming holidays.
How it works:
Scammers posing as utility employees call businesses about an alleged missed electric or gas payment. The caller warns that if payment isn’t made immediately, the utility will shut off the business’s gas or electricity within the hour.
Bogus calls usually come late in the day, often just before a weekend or holiday. The threat of losing power – and sales – is enough to scare some owners into sending a payment, even if they aren’t sure they owe.
How to protect your business:
- Don’t panic. Utilities don’t make cold-calls about shut offs. They will always send written disconnection notices if they plan to sever your service.
- Be skeptical of the Caller ID. Scammers may spoof their numbers.
- Know that disconnections are typically not scheduled at night or on weekends.
- Be wary if anyone asks you to pay a bill using a wire transfer, prepaid card or gift card. Those are payment methods scammers like because they’re hard to trace.
- Warn employees, especially managers authorized to pay bills, so they aren’t tricked in your absence.
- Contact your utility if a call has you worried. Use the number from your bill, not one provided by a caller. Or check out First Energy’s web page about utility scams athttps://www.firstenergycorp.com/help/safety/scam-info.html
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The Department of Consumer Affairs’ mission is to make sure people who live or shop in Cuyahoga County get what they pay for.