Scammers are now using search engines, like Google, to try and trick you into clicking a malicious link. Here’s how it works. The scammers are creating fake ads with search engine companies, like Google and Bing that look like billing portals and other utility payment options that you’re used to trying to find.

Once clicked, you’ll be prompted to dial a phone number allegedly belonging to your utility company. Scammers know it’s easier to trick someone by speaking with them in person. So, when you dial the number, you’re calling the scammer, not your utility company. The scammer may talk up an offer about enrolling in a program to help you save money on your utility bills, but only if you act now. Or the scammers may demand immediate payment by phone, wire, or in cash or else your service will be shut off.

San Isabel Electric will never come to your door without notifying you first. For both their safety, and yours, field crews do not collect payments. We also will never call and ask you for your payment information by phone. Members can only make payments by phone by calling our secure system. Employees are not authorized to take credit card information by phone.

Follow these tips to avoid fake utility and search engine ad scams:

Be careful when clicking on a search engine results that says “sponsored.” Anyone can purchase keyword ads. These ads typically match the keywords you used in the query. So, they may seem very relevant. Look for the search results that do not say sponsored.

Save or bookmark your utilities’ websites. By saving the real site, you’ll be able to spend less time searching for the real site and make your payment faster.

Beware of requests with unusual payment methods such as a gift card, wire, Venmo, Paypal, CashApp or other similar services. If something seems strange, stop and call us. San Isabel Electric’s payment options and account access are also available through our SmartHub app.

Additional tips:

Don’t give in to a high-pressure call seeking personal information – if someone calls claiming to represent your local utility and they demand immediate payment or personal information, hang up and call the number on your utility bill.

To verify whether an employee was dispatched to your location, call your utility using the number on your bill or the company’s website. San Isabel Electric field employees wear shirts with a San Isabel Electric logo, and drive logoed vehicles. Employees will gladly wait outside while you call the company to verify their identity

Never provide your Social Security number, credit card numbers, or bank account information to anyone during an unsolicited phone call or an unannounced visit.

We advise members to save our number, 1-800-279-7432 (SIEA) in your mobile phone’s contacts. This will make the number handy if you need to verify the legitimacy of a request, or whether an employee was dispatched to your location. Plus, if you do need to reach us, you’ll already have our number handy, and won’t need to look it up. We are always happy to help keep our members safe.

Source: KnowBe4 Scam of the Week, Feb. 28, 2024