CLEVELAND, Ohio-- A power company phone scam is targeting people in Northeast Ohio.
Both the Ohio Public Utilities Commission and FirstEnergy are warning customers to be extra careful handling phone calls about their power.
It happened to a FOX 8 employee on Friday.
An official-sounding message was left on the person's voicemail, claiming there was an “important matter” concerning “supply charges” on that person's electricity account. The scammer left a phone number with a 216 area code and reference number C2214.
When the FOX 8 employee called back, the person began asking for personal account information.
They claimed not to have it because, “I’m with the customer choice program and I deal strictly with the supply end of your bill... I’m authorized and, um, licensed to do so.”
None of that is true.
It’s called “slamming” and it’s illegal.
FirstEnergy spokesman, Chris Eck, explains how it works.
“Slamming is a practice where they get your account information and then change your service provider,” said Eck, “In Ohio, you can shop for electricity generation and there are a number of suppliers who can provide it.”
Slammers will change your service, without consent, to a provider you don’t know or trust, that could cost you a lot of money, and you won’t find it until the bill arrives.
“Scammers have become increasingly sophisticated,” said Eck.
Another trick is telling a person their power is about to be turned off and then demanding payment on a prepaid card.
Hang up on them immediately, says Eck, “We will never call and tell you to pay us right now or you’re shut off, and we never demand you pay us in a specific way.”
Legitimate FirstEnergy employees will also never ask for identifying account or personal details, because they already have access to your information.
Slammers also go after phone company accounts.
Anyone who thinks they’ve been slammed should report it immediately to the Ohio Public Utilities Commission.
Victims should also call the company that slammed them and tell them you want the problem resolved and dispute any charges.
In Ohio, you do not have to pay for service up to 30 days after being slammed.
Finally, call your original provider and tell them what happened so that they can restore power.