For Utility Scam Awareness Day, ComEd also sees increase in scams involving cryptocurrency and QR codes
CHICAGO, November 15, 2023--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Based on a ComEd analysis of reported scams for the first eight months of 2023, the energy company found that, while the number of reported incidents stayed the same compared to 2021, the amount of money lost per incident increased significantly. In recognition of Utility Scam Awareness Day, which is Wednesday, Nov. 15, ComEd and the Better Business Bureau share tips to help its customers identify – and hopefully avoid – the latest scam trends.
Through August of this year, the number of scams reported into ComEd decreased slightly as compared to the same timeframe in 2021 (1,156 vs. 1,151). Unfortunately, the total amount of money lost as a result of these reported scams more than doubled ($86,771 vs. $175,604).
Reason to remain vigilant
As the holiday season approaches, ComEd and the Better Business Bureau (BBB) of Chicago and Northern Illinois ask customers to be heightened alert for imposters who will call or visit homes and businesses, then threaten to turn off service if payment is not immediately made.
"Scammers use the holiday season as the time to increase their attempts to separate us from our money and even personal information, like Social Security or bank account numbers," said Melissa Washington, ComEd chief customer officer and senior vice president of customer operations. "Scammers know that we’re busier this time of year; distracted with plans and paying less attention to our spending and bill-paying habits. They use urgency to make their demands sound more believable. But what our customers need to know is that ComEd will never demand immediate payment under threat of disconnection."
Last year, ComEd noticed a rise in scammers demanding payment through mobile banking apps because they often have higher transaction limits than pre-paid cash cards. In some instances, the scammer will falsely claim not to have received a payment to get the victim to transfer money two or three times, allowing imposters to scam victims out of thousands of dollars with a single encounter.
Steve J. Bernas, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau, says, "Utility scams against businesses are also more prevalent during the holiday season because many restaurants and retail businesses depend so much on November and December for the peak sales for their businesses. The fear of losing power closing down their business often clouds common sense necessary to act before they think. It’s a busy time of the year for reports of both utility and online scams being reported to the BBB Scam Tracker."
Scammers turn to crypto and QR codes
Recently, ComEd also noticed two additional trends scammers use to steal money from businesses and individuals. The first includes demands for bogus payments in the form of cryptocurrency since transactions are harder to trace. The second trend involves scammers’ use of QR codes to solicit fraudulent payments. In this latter instance, imposters provide customers with QR codes and instructions to present the code to foster payment through retailers like Walmart and Walgreens, without the knowledge or consent of those stores.
Tips to Help Identify Scam Attempts
ComEd will never call or visit your home or business to:
ask for direct payment with a prepaid cash card, cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin, or third-party payment app like Cash App, QuickPay, Venmo or Zelle;
demand immediate payment; or
ask for personal information, such as a Social Security number, driver’s license number or bank information; we also will not ask for your ComEd account number unless you contact us first to enroll in a program or service.
Tips to Help Identify a True ComEd Employee
All ComEd field employees wear a uniform with the ComEd logo and visibly display a company ID badge with the logo and employee’s name.
ComEd recently changed its logo, so customers may continue to see the former ComEd logo on uniforms, badges and vehicles until the logo is phased out.
If customers are ever unsure about whether a person knocking at their door is a true ComEd employee, they are encouraged to close and lock their door, and call ComEd from a trusted phone number – which is 800-EDISON1 (800-334-7661). A true ComEd employee will not mind waiting.
Assistance With Past-Due Balances
Scammers sometimes find success with individuals and businesses who may be behind in their bills and pressure them into sending immediate payment. For anyone facing difficulty paying their electric bill, ComEd offers a number of bill-assistance programs to help customers avoid late notices and disconnection. For information, visit ComEd.com/PaymentAssistance.
To make it easier for customers to find assistance options and energy-saving tips, ComEd offers its Smart Assistance Manager (SAM), an online self-service tool that can match customers with payment-assistance programs and energy-efficiency offerings to help them manage their electric bills now and into the future.
ComEd is a unit of Chicago-based Exelon Corporation (NASDAQ: EXC), a Fortune 250 energy company with approximately 10 million electricity and natural gas customers – the largest number of customers in the U.S. ComEd powers the lives of more than 4 million customers across northern Illinois, or 70 percent of the state’s population. For more information visit ComEd.com and connect with the company on Facebook, X, Instagram and YouTube.
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ComEd Media Relations