CHARLESTON — West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey urged consumers to be wary of impostors who may threaten to shutoff service, even as several public utilities have suspended terminations for nonpayment during the coronavirus pandemic.
The state’s largest utilities including American Electric Power, First Energy, Dominion Energy and West Virginia American Water are among others that have announced a suspension of utility shutoffs as consumers cope with fallout from the pandemic.
The Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division has received numerous reports this week of impostors using the name of recognizable utilities and the threat of disconnects to steal the consumer’s money or personal, identifiable information. One consumer lost $2,500.
“I applaud the Public Service Commission and every utility that agrees to suspend shutoff notifications during this perilous time,” Attorney General Morrisey said. “The coronavirus continues to impact every aspect of life, and acts of generosity such as this provide some peace of mind to consumers across West Virginia. Anyone receiving a shutoff notice should contact their provider to ensure it is not a scam.”
The Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Hotline – 1-800-368-8808 – remains open to anyone wishing to report scams, price gouging or other manners by which bad actors may try to take advantage of consumers during the pandemic. Written complaints can also be filed at www.wvago.gov.
Utility scams typically demand immediate payment and threaten service disconnection if the targeted consumer fails to cooperate or questions the caller’s legitimacy.
Such calls typically come from an impostor who claims to represent a familiar utility. This could be especially true during the coronavirus pandemic.
Consumers should be wary of any caller who gives inadequate notice of an impending disconnect or interruption in service and/or demands prepaid debit cards, such as Green Dot cards, as a form of payment.
In all instances, consumers should be cautious with any unsolicited email, phone call or other forms of communication. They should never share personally identifiable, financial and otherwise sensitive data or agree to send cash, wire money or provide numbers associated with a credit/debit card, gift card or bank account without verifying the legitimacy of the recipient.