A simple solution goes a long way in battling utility scams.


Not a month goes by that we don’t read about scams targeting utility customers. Unfortunately, it’s a pretty common occurrence.

Here’s just a small representation of some typical scams:

  • American Water warned its customers about a nationwide bill-paying scam where callers stated President Obama had provided credits for utility bills. Customers were asked to provide social security numbers and bank routing numbers.
  • In 2013, San Diego County Water Authority told its customers to watch for scam artists disguised as utility workers. The scammers entered homes by offering to test water for pollution and contamination.
  • Early this year, Iowa American Water warned its customers about groups of two to five individuals who were targeting homes in the Davenport area. The scammers would impersonate utility workers, and claim something like, “There is a water main break in your neighborhood, and we have to test the water in your home right away.”

Similar stories are pretty darn easy to find.

Related: Guest Blog: Capitol Hill Hosts Water Infrastructure Summit

Typically, utilities use social media and news outlets to inform the public about these counterfeiters. But Connecticut Water is trying something new: emailed pictures of utility employees. Simple, right? But the utility is hoping this small change in procedure will help prevent thefts — especially among its elderly customers.

In a FOX CT interview, Connecticut Water CEO Eric Thornburg recalled a story of an elderly couple who was robbed after allowing a pseudo-utility worker into the home.

“[The scammers] found an envelope with cash that the couple had saved to give to their grandson, and when we heard about that, we were just outraged,” Thornburg said. “Sometimes, we tend to think, ‘Well, senior citizens don’t have access to email,’ but what we’re really finding is, more and more every day have access to that technology.”

Related: Blog: Stamford WWTP not to blame for sewage spill in harbor

Now, when a customer calls Connecticut Water, customer service representatives ask for an email address and then send an appointment confirmation complete with a photo of the field service representative. It’s a simple, easy step.

Will it stop all scams? Most likely not, but for every step forward utilities take in this battle, scammers certainly lose a little of their footing.

And one thing is certain: This is a united battle. The more utiltiies share their ideas and successes, the stronger they become in the fight.

Related: American Water’s NPXpress wins technology award

What about you? How is your utility working to battle scams? Share your successes here in the comments, or email me at Jennifer.West@colepublishing.com.


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