Energy companies across the United States and Canada have are collaborating to designate Nov. 15 as Utilities United Against Scams Day and are sponsoring a week-long campaign focused on exposing the tricks scammers use to steal money, and how customers can protect themselves.

“We want to provide our customers with important tools and information that can help protect them from scamming attempts and put these scammers out of business once and for all,” said Vince Maione, Atlantic City Electric region president.

A customer being scammed will typically receive an unsolicited phone call from someone claiming to be a utility representative who warns them that their service will be shut off if the customer fails to make a payment — usually within a short time frame through a prepaid debit card.

Some scammers have duplicated the voice response system of some utilities, so when customers call the number provided by the scammer, it sounds like a legitimate business. Some also use caller ID spoofing to replicate the utility's phone number.

Red flags for scams

• The scammer often becomes angry and tells a customer his or her account is past due and service will be shut off if a large payment isn't made - usually within less than an hour.

• The scammer instructs the customer to purchase a prepaid debit or credit card and then call him or her back to supposedly make a payment.

• The scammer asks the customer for the prepaid card's receipt number and PIN number, which grants instant access to the funds loaded to the card.

How to protect yourself

• Utility representatives will never ask or require a customer with a past-due balance to purchase a prepaid debit card to avoid disconnection.

• Customers can make payments online, by phone, automatic bank withdrawal, mail or in person.

• Customers with a past due balance will receive multiple shut-off notifications, never a single notification one hour before disconnection.

• If you doubt the legitimacy of the call, hang up and call Atlantic City Electric at 800-642-3780.

Customers can avoid being scammed by taking the following precautions:

• Never provide a Social Security number or personal information to anyone initiating contact with you claiming to be a utility representative or asking you to send money to another person or entity other than your local utility providers.

• Always ask to see a company photo ID before allowing any utility worker into your home or business.

• When in doubt, check it out. Be skeptical of anyone wearing clothing with an old or defaced company logo. If you have any doubts, ask to see the person's company photo ID.

• Never make payment for services to anyone coming to the door.

Any Atlantic City Electric customer who believes he or she has been a target of a scam is urged to contact their local police and report it to the company immediately by calling 800-642-3780.

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Middle Township Gazette reporter. Call me anytime you have news for the paper or the website. 609-365-6176