CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Wednesday, Nov. 18 is Scam Awareness Day and the COVID-19 pandemic has been a gold mine for scammers looking to rip people off.
Duke Energy said they have received 25,000 scam attempts just in 2020, the highest number on record. As a result, utility providers are banding together across North America to warn customers that anyone can be a target.
In North Carolina alone, 11,000 scams have impacted unknowing customers. Duke Energy says these scams have cost people $150,000. In Charlotte, there were 2,600 scam attempts this year with 79 of those customers paying our nearly $43,000.
“As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, it’s absolutely critical to remind all utility customers to beware of impostors attempting to scam them,” said Jared Lawrence, Duke Energy’s vice president of revenue services and metering. “We’ve made great progress as an industry in getting the word out the past few years, and the numbers continue to improve. But so do the scammers, and that’s why we must continue to keep our customers informed and aware so they don’t become the next victims. Together, we can stop scams.”
It's important to remember anyone can be a victim of this, and the most common type of scam is threatening disconnection. Heading into the winter months, these threats work, too. Scammers will demand payment or else, and they usually want that payment in the form of prepaid debit cards, iTunes cards or a wire transfer. Scammers will also fish for your personal information and sell it on the dark web.
“At the height of the pandemic, scammers preyed on Duke Energy customers with an alarming frequency,” Lawrence said. “The good news? Most people didn’t fall for it.”
RELATED: How to manage holiday debt in 2020
When the scam warning campaign started in 2016, more than 9% of Duke Energy customers who reported scams lost money, and so far, this year less than 3% have reported falling for scams. That’s still nearly $400,000 of hard-earned money lost to scammers in less than a year, and the reason why more work needs to be done to get the word out.
“Customers need to be on high alert as we continue to see impostor utility scams rise across North America,” said UUAS Executive Director Monica Martinez. “Scammers demand money or personal information on the spot – usually with threatening language – and indicate that service will be disconnected immediately. Anyone and everyone, from senior households to small business owners, is at risk of being targeted.”