Northwestern Press

Monday, October 16, 2017
Carol Obando-Derstine Carol Obando-Derstine

Guest View

Thursday, October 12, 2017 by The Press in Opinion

Stopping scammers before they steal from you

It seems you can’t look at the news or social media nowadays without reading about email and phone fraud.

Scammers will pretend to be just about anybody —utility employees, bank employees, even IRS agents — to try to get hold of your money or your personal information.

It’s enough to make you want to block everyone out. That’s unfortunate, because there are some genuine opportunities out there that can help you save. But sometimes it’s hard to separate them from all the scams and swindles.

At PPL Electric Utilities, we’re trying to stop scammers who steal our name so they can steal from you.

Door-to-door energy salesmen claim to represent us. (They don’t.) High-pressure phone callers say PPL will cut off power in an hour if the customer doesn’t pay. (We won’t.)

Now we’re seeing reports of phishing emails that pretend to come from PPL, as well.

We’d like all these people to keep our name out of their mouths, and our security team works with police to pursue them.

But, until they’re caught, the best thing we can do is share information on how to spot scammers. This advice can help you spot swindlers who might pretend to come from other companies you trust, too.

So share these signs of scams with anyone you know who can use them. We don’t want anyone to be taken advantage of.

Door-to-door energy marketing

In Pennsylvania, you have the right to buy your energy supply from a competitive supplier, rather than have PPL Electric Utilities supply it.

You may be able to save money by paying a lower rate than the one we charge. (No matter who you buy your energy from, it will be delivered safely and reliably over the PPL network.)

You should know, though, that PPL Electric Utilities does not endorse any one supplier over another. And those door-to-door solicitors who promote energy suppliers do not represent PPL. In fact, they’re required to specifically tell you that they’re not working for PPL.

Our advice? Don’t be afraid of shopping for energy supply – but the best place to start is our shopping website, pplelectric.com/shopping. You can also go to the state Public Utility Commission’s site at PAPowerSwitch.com to compare our current price to those of other suppliers.

If you want to listen to door-to-door salesmen and see what they have to offer, you can. But we recommend that you not sign anything before checking PAPowerSwitch.com, where you may find a better offer. And don’t provide your PPL account number to anyone.

Phone scams

Phone callers who impersonate PPL give themselves away by doing two things we don’t.

They claim they’ll cut off power immediately if they don’t get paid, and they pressure you to pay them by buying prepaid cards. (In real life, we give plenty of notice when there’s a possible risk of shutoff, and we don’t pressure anyone to use specific payment methods.)

You can always check your account status by logging on at pplelectric.com or calling us at 1-800-DIAL-PPL.

If you get a suspicious or threatening call that claims to come from another company – like a utility or a bank – do the same thing: Hang up and contact the company directly using a trusted method, like the phone number on your monthly statement.

“Phishing” emails

A “phishing” email is a message that tries to get you to share personal information, such as account numbers. Some phishing messages can look a lot like the emails sent by real companies you know and trust.

Here are ways to keep yourself off the hook: First, hover your mouse over any link in the message. Read the URL that pops up, and see where the link really goes. Does it go to a site you trust, like pplelectric.com? Or does it go someplace you’ve never seen before?

Also, if the message says there’s an urgent problem with your account, don’t click.

Instead, contact the company directly through a trustworthy channel to check your account status. They’ll let you know if you really have anything to worry about.

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Editor’s note: Carol Obando-Derstine is regional affairs director for PPL Electric Utilities.