City of Austin Utilities Participates in 6th Annual Utility Scam Awareness Day Nov. 17
November 16, 2021
City of Austin Utilities joins Utilities United Against Scams (UUAS) this week to support International Fraud Awareness Week and recognize the sixth annual Utility Scam Awareness Day on Wednesday, November 17. Utility Scam Awareness Day is an advocacy and awareness campaign focused on educating customers and exposing the tactics used by scammers. This year’s theme is End the Call. End the Scam.
In Fiscal Year 2021, approximately 1,630 City of Austin customers reported receiving calls from utility scammers.
Unfortunately, 87 of those customers were tricked into paying more than $43,549.
“It’s vitally important that we continue to communicate with our customers and ensure they are aware of scam activity,” said Jennifer Floyd, City of Austin Utilities Director of Customer Care Services/Utility Contact Center. “As with scammers in other industries like car warranties, bank accounts, taxes and social security fraud, scammers in the utility industry continue to evolve. They use different tactics to engage with our customers but always include the underlying premise of scaring customers with the threat of immediate disconnection.”
Just last week, more than 85 Austin utility customers were bombarded with scam calls. Scammers continue to increase calls, texts, emails and in-person tactics. They often contact utility customers asking for immediate payment to avoid service disconnection.
As a reminder, City of Austin Utilities does not call residential customers with cut-off deadlines. (Note: Commercial customers may receive a courtesy call two days prior to scheduled cut off for non-payment.) We will never ask for credit card or wire transfer information over the phone or ask customers to make payments with a pre-paid debit card, gift card, any form of cryptocurrency or third-party digital payment mobile applications. While some customers do pay in cash, the City will never demand immediate payment in person with cash, gift card or Bitcoin.
If a City of Austin customer receives a phone call threatening to interrupt service, demand immediate payment, or request credit card or bank account information, hang up and dial 3-1-1 or 512-974-2000 and report the incident immediately. Anyone who has received such a call or email and is uncertain of his or her account status can call the Utilities Customer Contact Center at 512-494-9400.
UUAS, a consortium of nearly 150 U.S. and Canadian electric, water and natural gas utilities and their respective trade associations, continues to raise customer awareness of common scams and new scam tactics being used by utility impostors. Through its work and with the help of customer reporting, UUAS has successfully helped to take nearly 12,000 toll-free numbers used by scammers against utility customers out of operation.
“It’s perfectly acceptable for the customer to hang up the phone. The scammer’s initial goal is to pressure their targets and convince them that they work for the utility,” said UUAS Executive Director Monica Martinez. “Scammers are extremely sophisticated in their tactics, and, by simply ending the call, you can end their scam. If you are unsure, you can always call back the utility by dialing the number found on your bill or on their website, and they will provide you with the correct information.”
Visit utilitiesunited.org for more information and tips on how customers can protect themselves from impostor utility scams, and follow along with UUAS on Twitter and Facebook. The Federal Trade Commission also provides additional information about protecting personal information and other information regarding impostor scams.