The Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) is recognizing the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) National Consumer Protection Week happening March 6-12. The purpose of the week is to help consumers understand their rights to help them avoid fraud and scams. ESFI recently created infographics in English and Spanish to help address this important issue.
“Educating consumers to help protect them from utility scams is very important to our members, the 2,000 public power utilities that serve more than 49 million people across the nation,” said Joy Ditto, President and CEO of the American Public Power Association and ESFI Board of Directors Member. “Digitization and technological advancements have allowed scammers to prey upon consumers in new ways, and we must work to put a stop to them.”
According to the FTC, fraud complaints were received from more than 2.8 million people in 2021, showing a total loss of $5.8 billion, $2.3 billion of which were from impostor scams. Many of these instances are electric, water, or natural gas utility scams targeting vulnerable populations. Imposters can strike at any time, but they often take advantage of customers who are elderly, non-English speaking, or live in areas that have been affected by a natural disaster. In these scams, scammers pretend they are representatives of utility companies and demand immediate payment to avoid service disconnects.
It is imperative to note that utility companies do not request payment or other personal information over the phone or through email, nor will they contact you, threatening to disconnect service. They also do not ask for gift cards, prepaid cards, or money transfers as forms of payment. Scammers also often fake emails and phone numbers. If you have any questions about your account, contact your utility company directly using the phone number or email listed on your bill. If you encounter any of these red flags, let your utility company know immediately.
“As Chair of ESFI’s Board of Directors, we are happy to support this initiative to help stop scams and keep consumers safe,” said Lorraine Carli, Vice President of Outreach and Advocacy for the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). “Preventing utility scams aligns with our mission of being dedicated exclusively to promoting electrical safety at home and in the workplace.”
Please visit the FTC’s site for more information on National Consumer Protection Week and avoiding scams. For more information on how utilities across the country have partnered together to protect their customers from fraud, visit utilitiesunited.org. If you would like access to free electrical safety materials you can share throughout your community, visit esfi.org.
ESFI is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to promoting electrical safety at home and the workplace. For more information and to use ESFI’s free resources throughout your community, visit esfi.org.