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WV Public Service Commission warns of billing scam

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West Virginia residents should be wary of callers claiming they are delinquent on their power bills, the West Virginia Public Service Commission advises.

The PSC reports scammers claiming to represent electric and gas utility companies are threatening to shut off utility service unless a delinquent bill is paid within a matter of hours. The callers instruct customers to go to Wal-Mart or another store and buy a Green Dot Visa or similar pre-paid debit card, then load money onto the card and pay the delinquent bill over the phone.

The scammers often target businesses and the elderly. A Parkersburg resident contacted the PSC to report he'd been bilked out of $1,500 last month by a caller claiming to represent Appalachian Power Company.

The PSC says the fraudsters "reportedly have created a sense of legitimacy by making the name and phone number of the power company appear on the victims’ caller ID."

The Public Service Commission cautions consumers to be vigilant, use common sense if contacted about utility payments and keep in mind utility company representatives calling about a delinquent bill would not specify a method of payment. The PSC also cautioned against giving out personal or financial information to someone over the phone, and said if a person is unsure about a caller's authenticity, hang up and call the utility company back.

And anyone who receives a billing call should try to verify the identity of the caller and report to police calls that seem similar to the scam, the PSC suggested.

For information on authorized payment locations, contact your utility company.

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