Welcome to the first in a long series of informative and helpful tips to keep you, your family, and your businesses safe in cyberspace.
Today’s topic: COVID-19 Utility Scams
Even in the middle of a global health crisis, malicious actors have not let up. Over the past year, we have seen a rise in instances where utility customers are being contacted and talked into revealing personal information and banking information. These scammers are using COVID-19 as the reason for calling. Here are some tips you can use to identify these scammers and actions you can take during and after being contacted.
Generally What to Look For:
- Urgency: In phone and online scams there is always a sense of urgency to pressure you into revealing information or in making a payment. Tip: Remain Calm
- Fear: The malicious actor will often use fear to trick you into doing something you normally wouldn’t do otherwise. For instance, the malicious actor may say “if you don’t give us this one-time payment we will disconnect you!”
- Advanced scammers have the technology and know-how to spoof or fake the phone number of an organization. This means that the incoming phone call may actually display the name of your utility on the caller ID.
What to Do When You Are on the Call or Receive an Email:
- Phone Calls:
- Ask yourself
- is this person trying to pressure me into doing something that doesn’t make sense?
- they called me, why are they asking me to reveal so much of my information>
- If at any point you are not comfortable you can:
- Say I will be making a payment in person
- Say I’m not comfortable in revealing that information
- Just hang up
- Ask yourself
- Check the actual source of the email. Oftentimes email applications (Outlook, Gmail, iOS mail app, etc) will only show you the string or name of the person/organization sending the email. This can be easily faked and is set by the person who created the email. For instance, anyone can go to Gmail and create a new account. This new account could have the email firstname.lastname@example.org with the name of “Entergy”. When you see an email from this person all that you may initially see is “Entergy” in your inbox. In most email applications you can right-click this name and see the originating email address.
- Do not click any links or call the numbers located in a suspicious email.
- Use whatever payment processing method you are used to using. Most utilities offer both online, in person, and auto-draft options.
- Trust your gut instincts. If something seems off, it is probably a scam.
- If you have a question for your utility or unsure about the status of your account these are the things you should do in order of preference.
- Visit a physical office location
- Call the customer support number listed on the utility’s website
- Log in to the customer payment portal linked on the utility’s website