LCEC has issued a warning telling customers to beware the "Green Dot scam."
Typically, a fraudulent caller will contact a customer and demand payment for their energy bill within an hour to avoid disconnection. The scam artist will advise the customer to purchase a Green Dot credit card available at drug and convenience stores. The customer is instructed to call a toll-free phone number to pay their bill with the card. Many utilities, including LCEC, are reporting these scammers are targeting Spanish-speaking and foreign language populations. In more frequent cases, restaurants and businesses have been contacted during their busy hours. In some cases the scammer has the customer's account number and address.
The newest scams are email based. An email sent to the customer looks like it came directly from the utility. The message has links for online bill payment but they really connect to malware that collects banking information and passwords for the dishonest scammers. Scams are getting more sophisticated but customers can defend themselves using old-school methods:
1. Go with your gut. If something seems fishy, check it out before paying.
2. Typically, a utility would not require a customer to purchase a pre-paid card to pay a bill.
3. If the caller seems suspicious, hang up and call your utility directly. Don't use the phone number the caller provide but note it so that you can call the police to report the incident.
Established in 1940, LCEC is a not-for-profit electric distribution cooperative serving Cape Coral, North Fort Myers, Marco Island, Sanibel and Captiva Islands, Pine Island, Everglades City, Immokalee, Ave Maria, and parts of Lehigh Acres. LCEC is committed to providing efficient, reliable, cost-competitive electric and emerging energy solutions and excellent service to our customers. LCEC is also a major contributor to the local economy as one of the largest employers in Lee County with nearly 400 employees and by its support of many local agencies through charitable giving, volunteerism and environmental stewardship.
4. Don't provide personal information when someone calls or emails you.
5. Trust your instincts.
If you approached by a scam artist, contact your utility and local law enforcement. Your report could prevent others from becoming a victim to these frauds.