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Duke Energy expands campaign to protect its customers from fraud

- Duke Energy customers have lost nearly $2 million since 2015 to scams

- Company co-founded industry group that helps shut down toll-free numbers used by scammers

- Interactive quiz highlights scam tactics, provides customer safety tips

CHARLOTTE, N.C., Nov. 15, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- With the fourth annual Utility Scam Awareness Week starting Nov. 17, Duke Energy is expanding its campaign to protect its nearly 8 million customers from utility-impostor scammers.

Duke Energy, the nation's largest electric utility, unveils its new logo. (PRNewsFoto/Duke Energy) (PRNewsfoto/Duke Energy)

Duke Energy, a founding member of Utilities United Against Scams (UUAS), is reminding customers of tactics used by scammers to steal their money, and providing tips on how to avoid these scams.

The UUAS is a consortium of more than 140 U.S. and Canadian electric, water, and natural gas companies (and their respective trade associations) that raises awareness of utility scams targeting customers.

UUAS has helped shut down nearly 5,000 toll-free phone numbers used by utility-impostor scammers. 

More than 37,500 Duke Energy customers have reported scam attempts since the company began tracking reports in June 2015. A small fraction of those customers – about 6 to 7 percent – fell victim to the scams, losing a total of nearly $2 million.

From January through September 2019, more than 10,000 Duke Energy customers reported receiving a scam attempt. Of these, 552 customers, or about 5.5% paid the scammers, totaling nearly $316,000 in losses.

Phone scammers posing as utility providers call and insist customers are delinquent on their bills. The scammer typically claims a disconnection is pending, rigs caller ID to make it look like the call is from a utility provider, and demands the money in the form of a prepaid debit card. Common scam tactics include:

  • A caller ID display with the customer's utility's name
  • A mimicked interactive voice response menu that customers typically hear when they call their utility
  • Threats to disconnect power, water or natural gas service to a customer's home or business within an hour
  • Immediate payment demands by prepaid debit card

Customers who suspect they have been victims of fraud or who feel threatened during contact with one of these scammers should:

  • Hang up the phone.
  • Call the utility provider by using the phone number provided on the bill or on the company's official website, followed by a call to the police.
  • Never purchase a prepaid debit card or gift card to avoid service disconnection or shutoff. DO NOT pay over the phone if immediate payment is demanded by a prepaid card to avoid a disconnection. Legitimate utility companies do not specify how customers should make a bill payment, and they always offer a variety of ways to pay a bill, including accepting payments online, by phone, automatic bank draft, mail or in person.

The fourth annual Utility Scam Awareness Week includes a weeklong advocacy and awareness campaign focused on exposing scammers' tactics to help protect utility customers.

The UUAS' Utility Scam Awareness Week campaign theme, "It happened to me; don't let it happen to you," highlights how easy it can be to fall victim to a scam and offers lessons learned from customers who have had this unfortunate experience.

"Scammers' techniques are becoming increasingly more sophisticated, making it harder for utility customers to differentiate between scams and legitimate messages," said Jared Lawrence, Duke Energy's vice president of customer operations for Piedmont Natural Gas and Metering Services and UUAS founder and executive committee chair. "This is why we raise awareness and take action throughout the year, and especially during National Utility Scam Awareness Week. Our data show that deception rates have decreased since we began tracking in 2015, but we won't be content until none of our customers lose money to scammers. We'll continue work on their behalf and provide information on how to stay safe."

Duke Energy developed an interactive quiz to highlight common scam techniques and safety tips.

Visit duke-energy.com/stopscams or utilitiesunited.org for more information and tips about how customers can protect themselves from impostor utility scams, or follow along on social media: Twitter @DukeEnergy or @U_U_A_S and Facebook @Duke Energy or @UtilitiesUnited.

Duke Energy

Duke Energy (DUK), a Fortune 150 company headquartered in Charlotte, N.C., is one of the largest energy holding companies in the U.S. It employs 30,000 people and has an electric generating capacity of 51,000 megawatts through its regulated utilities, and 3,000 megawatts through its nonregulated Duke Energy Renewables unit.

Duke Energy is transforming its customers' experience, modernizing the energy grid, generating cleaner energy and expanding natural gas infrastructure to create a smarter energy future for the people and communities it serves. The Electric Utilities and Infrastructure unit's regulated utilities serve approximately 7.7 million retail electric customers in six states – North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky. The Gas Utilities and Infrastructure unit distributes natural gas to more than 1.6 million customers in five states – North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Ohio and Kentucky. The Duke Energy Renewables unit operates wind and solar generation facilities across the U.S., as well as energy storage and microgrid projects.

Duke Energy was named to Fortune's 2019 "World's Most Admired Companies" list, and Forbes' 2019 "America's Best Employers" list. More information about the company is available at duke-energy.com. The Duke Energy News Center contains news releases, fact sheets, photos, videos and other materials. Duke Energy's illumination features stories about people, innovations, community topics and environmental issues. Follow Duke Energy on Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and Facebook.

Contact: Peveeta Persaud 
Office: 727.820.5592 | 24-Hour: 800.559.3853 
Twitter: @DE_PeveetaP

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