BBB warns Appalachian Power customers of phone scam returning to western Virginia

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ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) – The Better Business Bureau (BBB) is alerting citizens that a phone scam that moved into our region last year has returned.

The BBB serving western Virginia says customers of Appalachian Power are being targeted by this scam and are offering tips on how to avoid falling victim to utility scams.

They say the scammer uses hostile tactics including threatening to shut off power within 30 minutes if they do not get instant payment.

Collection agent con artists leave a 1-800 call-back number for victims to give personal and banking information.

Earlier versions of the scam have offered to take payment in person and have used the same recorded welcome message used by the legitimate AEP customer service line.

According to AEP’s website, victims in other states have also reported that scammers asked customers for the prepaid card’s receipt number and PIN number, granting access to the card’s funds.

BBB representatives say that the scammers usually reach you by phone; however, they can also knock on your door claiming to be with the local gas, electric or water company.

They may even show up in a uniform claiming that the electric meter is not working properly and must be immediately replaced – at your expense.

On rare occasions, the scammer may gain access your home to perform “repairs” or an “energy audit” with the intent of stealing your valuables with the promise of energy discounts with the aim of taking your money, personal information or even account details to switch you to another utility provider without your consent.

This is called “slamming” and is illegal.

Here are some tips from the BBB on how to avoid utility or similar scams:

  • Confirm that you are speaking with a utility representative. If you have any concerns, tell the caller that you will independently check the phone number for the utility company to verify the caller’s identity and information. The toll-free number for Virginia AEP customers is 1-800-956-4237.
  • Be wary of anyone demanding immediate payment. This includes payment in forms that are difficult to trace, such as Western Union, pre-paid Visa cards or gift cards.
  • Never give personal or bank information. This includes your credit card, debit card, Social Security, ATM, checking or savings account numbers to anyone who comes to your home, calls or sends an email requesting information.
  • Never allow anyone claiming to be a utility service person into your home unless you have scheduled an appointment and the person has proper identification. Contact the police if you become concerned about your safety. Utility company employees are happy to show you an employee ID.

If you believe you have been a victim of a utility scam, call your utility company or call the BBB at 800-533-5501.

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