CLEVELAND (WJW)FirstEnergy is reminding its customers of the importance of scam safety as the company experiences an uptick in reported utility scam attempts.

FirstEnergy said as temperatures drop, scammers tend to be more active because they know customers rely on electricity to stay safe and warm and are “more likely to comply due to fear of disconnection.”

The company said seniors and small business owners especially need to stay aware. Scammers often prey on the fears of vulnerable customers to steal their personal information and trick them into paying “unpaid bills” to avoid service disconnection.

To date in 2022, FirstEnergy said it has received more than 3,500 reports of scams from customers, including more than 800 across Northeast Ohio.

FirstEnergy tips to distinguish between legitimate contacts from their utility and scam attempts:

  • Well in advance of the disconnection date, FirstEnergy utility customers who are behind on their accounts will be sent written notice of their account status with instructions on how to avoid disconnection of service. 
  • Utility impostors often require that you use unusual payment methods like digital payment apps, cryptocurrencies or money transfers. Only send payments to your FirstEnergy operating company using established payment methods
  • FirstEnergy field collectors working in Ohio may offer customers with past-due accounts the opportunity to pay their bills in person before disconnecting service. All employees carry company-issued photo identification.
  • Some scammers go door-to-door posing as affiliates of FirstEnergy and offer “special deals” to customers who provide their personal information. FirstEnergy employees and authorized contractors do not solicit door-to-door and will never ask you to provide a copy of your electric bill.
  • Scammers often use Caller ID spoofing software to misrepresent the source of a phone call to further mislead and confuse their targets. When in doubt, hang up and dial the phone number on your FirstEnergy bill. Never dial the phone number provided by the scammer or the Caller ID.
  • Bad actors frequently pretend to offer bill assistance through programs that do not exist in order to steal sensitive customer information. Customers in need of assistance should view our list of authorized bill assistance programs.
  • Utility imposters have spoofed employment listings on legitimate job-search websites to trick job seekers into providing personal data. You can verify the authenticity of the posting by visiting the FirstEnergy career website or contacting FirstEnergy’s Human Resources department.
  • Cybercriminals may also try to steal your private information using malware delivered through texts and emails. Avoid clicking on any links or downloading attachments from suspicious emails or texts.

For more information about how to prevent utility scams, check FirstEnergy‘s scam information page.