Milwaukee, Wis. – Scammers are taking advantage of the cold winter weather by once again impersonating We Energies representatives. The con artists threaten residents and business owners with disconnection of service…unless they pay up immediately.
How the Scam Works:
The phone rings, and the person on the other line identifies themselves as a representative from We Energies. The caller tells you that you need to make payment immediately, or your utilities will be shut off.
The caller will demand that you pay by unusual payment methods, including prepaid debit or gift card, cryptocurrency or third-party apps like Zelle, Venmo or Paypal. This is a huge warning sign.
Sometimes the imposter will threaten you or act rude, other times they may seem legitimate and sound professional. Do not be fooled.
Variations of the scam include calls to restaurants during busy dinner hours – threatening immediate disconnection if immediate payment is not made. Also, scammers target Spanish-speaking consumers by speaking in Spanish.
Many people report that their caller ID will even show “We Energies” as being the caller.
“Caller ID is, unfortunately, easily manipulated by fraudsters, and BBB reminds folks that caller ID cannot be trusted”, says Jim Temmer, BBB Serving Wisconsin CEO and president. “BBB along with We energies is imploring the community to spread the word about this scam by sharing this information with family members, friends, neighbors, businesses and senior citizens.”
“We will never threaten you or try to scare you into making a payment,” says John Zaganczyk, We Energies senior vice president, customer service. “If you think a scammer is targeting you, hang up. It’s not rude; it’s safe.”
How to avoid a utility impersonation scam:
- Never make payments with prepaid debit cards, gift cards or cryptocurrency. Scammers prefer these payment methods because they are untraceable and there is nothing you can do to get your money back. Remember, legitimate companies almost always accept checks and credit cards as the primary means of payment.
- If someone shows up at your doorstep, verify their identity. If you weren’t expecting a visit, ask the person for their ID and then call your utility company to verify that they are an employee.
- When in doubt, verify the call with your utility company. If you are unsure about a call you received, get the customer service number from the company’s official website or your latest bill and call the company directly to question the call that you received. This will ensure you are speaking to a real representative. Never give your personal or banking information to an unverified or unsolicited caller, and resist the pressure to pay immediately.
For more ways to avoid utility scams, see the BBB Tip: Utility Imposter Scam and visit 10 Steps to avoid scams. Report scams to BBB Scam Tracker. Your first-hand experience can help other consumers recognize scammers’ tactics before it’s too late. If you get a call that sounds suspicious, hang up immediately and call We Energies at 800-242-9137. If you fall for a scam, report it to your local police department. You can also report scams to BBB Scam Tracker. For more information or further inquiries, contact the Wisconsin BBB at www.bbb.org/wisconsin, 414-847-6000 or 1-800-273-1002. Consumers also can find more information about how to protect themselves from scams by following the Wisconsin BBB on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube. ABOUT BBB: For more than 100 years, the Better Business Bureau has been helping people find businesses, brands and charities they can trust. In 2020, people turned to BBB more than 220 million times for BBB Business Profiles on 6.2 million businesses and Charity Reports on 11,000 charities, all available for free at BBB.org. There are local, independent BBBs across the United States, Canada and Mexico, including BBB Serving Wisconsin which was founded in 1939 and serves the state of Wisconsin.