This article was initially published in Milwaukee Journal Sentinel by Jesse Garza on September 29, 2017.
Scammers threatening to disconnect service to We Energies customers are directing potential victims to purchase prepaid debit cards to pay supposed past due balances, the utility reported.
More than 70 customers have reported such calls in the past week, We Energies spokeswoman Amy Jahns said.
The scammers use software to display the We Energies name on a phone’s caller ID and sometimes use a recording of the We Energies phone greeting to sound legitimate, Jahns said.
The scammers use online databases to obtain names and addresses and claim to have additional information about customers’ accounts, Jahns said.
According to a scam alert from We Energies:
The callers tell customers to go to a store – often Walmart, Walgreens or CVS – to buy a prepaid Visa debit card, sometimes referred to as a Green Dot card or MoneyPak card.
They then say customers are behind on bill payment or have a malfunctioning meter that must be replaced, adding that the cost for replacement is rebated after installation.
The scammers tell customers an exact amount of funds to be deposited to the cards, make the request urgent and threaten disconnection.
They also provide a phone number for customers to call to provide the cards’ numbers, and the amount paid is not refundable from We Energies.
“If customers have the slightest suspicion about a caller claiming to represent any utility they should call the phone number on their bill,” Jahns said.