Over 700 customers in 2015 fall victim to scammers posing as WE Energies

scam alertAccording to WE Energies, the number of pre-paid debit card scam attempts targeting We Energies customers in 2015 has just passed 700. Actual losses from victims are over $18,000 this year.

Generally, a victim will receive a telephone call from someone representing to be with WE Energies. The caller will say that they have been trying to get in touch with them (the victim) for several weeks regarding unpaid bills, and that if these bills are not paid by a specific time later that day their utilities will be disconnected. The caller then instructs the victim to purchase a pre-pad debit card and call them back and provide the debit card numbers.

The scammers’ target residential customers and businesses. In December of 2014, nail salons were targeted. In January of this year, veterinary clinics and kennels in SE Wisconsin were targeted. More recently, scammers targeted restaurants in the Fox Valley area. And most recently auto repair and body shops in Waukesha County have been targeted.

The scammers appear to be making calls from locations outside of the United States. Victims report that the callers often are speaking with a foreign accent.

The scammers are able to develop a fair amount of information about individuals and businesses from open sources including online phone books, business directories, Secretary of State incorporation records, voter registrations, vehicle registrations, driver licenses, Google Maps, etc.

One of the scammers has made an audio recording of the WE Energy customer service greeting. Potential victims are told to call a particular phone number for verification that the caller (the scammer) is in fact from WE Energy. When the potential victim calls that number they hear the WE Energy recording prior to speaking with the scammer for verification.

Similar scams are targeting cable TV customers, offering a year of premium TV service for an upfront payment with a pre-paid debit card.

Outlets which sell pre-paid debit cards can question individuals buying the cards whether the purchase is to pay a utility bill. If so, warn the customer that this may be a scam and they should contact the utility company directly to verify.

Businesses, individuals, and law enforcement should report this activity to the utility which was impersonated. If individuals and businesses were victims, they should also report this to their local law enforcement agency.

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