By Ryan Elarton, General Manager

Consumers with water, gas and electricity connections have long been targets for utility scams. But in today’s digital world, every swipe and click increases the risk of potential scams.

Scammers are more sophisticated than ever before, and they understand our increasing reliance on technology. With their sharpened digital knives, scammers have adapted their tactics to trick unsuspecting consumers through a variety of methods.

San Isabel Electric Association wants to help you avoid energy scams, whether a financial loss or leak of your personal information. This month, I’d like to share updates on some the latest utility scams, as well as tips to help you stay safe from even the craftiest scammers.

Recent Utility Scams

Scammers typically disguise themselves––either physically or digitally––as utility employees or representatives to sell something, or to steal consumers’ money, or personal information.

Recently, we’ve seen scammers going door-to-door or calling consumers, stating they represent or work with San Isabel Electric, when in fact they work for a solar company. In many instances, the salesperson states they need to look at your meter or discuss your electric bill. Sometimes the salesperson does not realize the company they are working for has no affiliation with us. They are simply reciting the material they were trained with. But still, a company that trains its’ employees to lie to potential customers should not be trusted.

Another common trick scammers use is to fraudulently claim a consumer’s bill is past due and threaten to disconnect service if payment isn’t received immediately. Scammers approach consumers through a variety of means, including phone calls, text messages, emails and even in-person visits.

These scams are becoming even harder to spot because the digital line of attack is increasingly more common. For example, new capabilities disguising caller ID or “spoofing” can make the phone number you see on caller ID appear to be from a trusted source. Spoofing makes it easier for scammers to deceive you because it’s more difficult to immediately verify the call. In last month’s issue of this magazine, we warned of another recent scam that uses fraudulent websites that are identical to a utility payment webpage. And what’s worse, these pages are often promoted on search engines to trick consumers into clicking and making a payment.

Another recent scam involves phone calls, text messages or emails claiming you overpaid your electric bill and will receive a cash or banking refund. This offer may seem too good to be true, and it is––it’s likely a scam aimed at stealing your personal information.

Spotting a Scam

There are several red flags you can watch for to identify an energy scam.

Scammers often use high-pressure tactics to create a sense of urgency, like claiming your electricity or other services will be disconnected if a payment isn’t made immediately.

Additionally, scammers may ask for unusual payment methods such as gift cards or cryptocurrency. If someone is pushing for an unusual payment method, it’s likely a scam.

You’ve probably noticed that many digital scams, like emails or text messages, include poor grammar, spelling errors and odd email addresses. These are red flags, so when you see these dodgy forms of communication, consider it a potential scam.

What San Isabel Electric Will (and Won’t) Do

San Isabel Electric Association does have several programs and employees dedicated to supporting member-owners who want to add solar generation to their home or business. We even work with preferred vendors to sell solar generation systems and finance them on your electric bill. But we will never go door-to-door to sell you something. In fact, SIEA does not send employees to homes without prior notice, and we will never demand an instant, immediate payment, and threaten to disconnect your service without prior notice or warning. We strive to resolve challenging situations and work with our members to avoid disconnects.

SIEA will never ask for your Social Security number or banking details over the phone or through email. We offer several secure payment options, including in-person, by mail, phone, through our app, website, and more. For a detailed list of secure payment options, visit siea.com/waystopay.

Avoiding Scams

Whether in-person, over the phone, or online, always be suspicious of an unknown individual claiming to be a San Isabel Electric employee requesting to look at your meter, discuss your bill, banking, or other personal information. When it comes to texting, we will only send you text messages if you have opted in for important alerts through our app SmartHub.

If you’re ever in doubt about a potential energy scam, just give us a quick call at 800-279-SIEA (7432) so we can assist. San Isabel Electric wants to help protect you and our community against utility frauds, and by notifying us about potential scams, you can create the first line of defense. We encourage you to report any potential scams so we can spread the word and prevent others in our community from falling victim.