Possible phone scam targeting co-op members
Several members have received a telephone call from a person claiming to have options to lower the member's electric bill. One member reported that the caller offered to switch the member's account to another company to get these special offers and asked for the member's account number. The member knew that electric generation switching was not available for Valley Rural Electric Cooperative members and suspected that the call might be a scam. She did not provide her account number. Instead, she replied that, if the offer was legitimate, the caller would have her address and could mail information about the offer to her. She never received any mailing.
Whether these calls are legitimate ones from misinformed companies or scams from nefarious persons, Valley reminds members that no electric generation companies have signed contracts with the cooperative to sell electricity to our members. That means that Valley REC members cannot switch their generation provider to another company. Any caller claiming otherwise is either mistaken or involved in a scam.
Never give out your personal or financial information in response to any calls that you receive. If you receive a call similar to this one, do not supply any information. End the call and then notify us of the incident.
And if you are ever in doubt about the validity of a caller claiming to be from Valley REC, ask for the caller's name and explain that you will call back. Then call us toll-free at 1-800-432-0680 (not the number given by the caller) and ask for the person by name.
Two phone scams target electric co-op members
An article in a recent issue of Electric Co-op News reported two phone scams currently targeting members of electric cooperatives. Members of Polk-Burnett Electric Cooperative in Wisconsin notified co-op staff of calls they received this month.
One of the scams involved a fraudster posing as an employee of an investor-owned utility (IOU). The scammer, claiming the IOU had taken over the member's account in November, demanded immediate payment or face disconnection for nonpayment. The member recognized the call was a scam and reported it to Polk-Burnett EC.
Electric cooperatives are member-owned. The members, either directly or via their elected directors, would have to vote to sell their cooperative to an IOU or another company. Members would know in advance of such an event. So, if you receive a call from a person claiming that your electric account has been taken over by another company, it is definitely a scam call. Do not give the caller any information. Simply hang up.
Another scam reported to Polk-Burnett EC involved a scammer claiming to be a co-op employee. The fraudster said the member had overpaid her electric bill and would need to supply financial data to get her refund. She realized it was a scam, hung up, and reported it to the co-op.
Should you ever overpay your Valley Rural Electric Cooperative bill, we apply the excess as a credit toward your future bill(s). We do not ask you for financial information to arrange a refund. If you receive a call saying you are due a refund on your electric bill, simply hang up.
And if you are ever in doubt about the validity of caller claiming to be from Valley REC, ask for the caller's name and explain that you will call back. Then call us toll-free at 1-800-432-0680 and ask for the person by name.
Crooks try to hook your data with two phishing scams
Scammers and hackers are often looking for ways to get personal and financial data from unsuspecting folks. Currently two phishing schemes are showing up in people's e-mail. Phishing is the fraudulent practice of sending emails that appear to be from reputable, trustworthy companies or organizations in order to trick individuals into revealing sensitive information, such as usernames, passwords, credit card numbers, or other personal or financial data. Don't fall prey to these scams.
The first phishing scam always appears this time of year, the W‑2 scam. More employers are sending W‑2s to employees in an e-mail. Scammers rely upon this convenience to impersonate the human resources department of the employer and encourage the recipient to click on a link or open a file to view what is supposedly the W‑2. Instead, the scammers gain access to the user's log-in credentials and other sensitive information. For more details about this type of scam, read the post 'Be on the Watch for W‑2 Phishing Scams!' on the KnowBe4 website.
With the difficulty many folks have trying to get a COVID-19 vaccination, a new phishing scheme has appeared. The scam e-mail claims to be from a health service organization and tells the recipients that they have been selected to get a vaccine shot. If unsuspecting victims click the enclosed link or acceptance button, they are taken to an official looking website that prompts for personal details including mother's maiden name, credit card numbers, or banking data (info not needed for a vaccine appointment). More details about this scam (currently happening in the United Kingdom but could appear anywhere) are available in the post 'U.K. Phishing Attack Targets Those Seeking the COVID-19 Vaccine' on the KnowBe4 website.
Possible Penn Lines rebate scam
Valley REC received a notice from the Pennsylvania Rural Electric Association (PREA) about a possible scam involving the Penn Lines magazine. Kathy Hackleman, senior editor/writer for Penn Lines, wrote,
"A Pennsylvania cooperative member called her local co-op reporting she had received two calls telling her she had a $25 rebate coming from her Penn Lines subscription. She was savvy enough to realize it was probably a scam, so she hung up and called her local co-op representative, who of course told her it was not a legitimate call. We assume the next step would have been to ask for her banking information so they could deposit her rebate directly into her account."
PREA is not offering any rebate on Penn Lines subscriptions. Unfortunately, the July issue of Penn Lines has already been printed, so PREA plans to run a piece in the August issue about the incident.
Valley reminds you never to give out personal or financial information in response to any calls that you receive. If you receive a call similar to this one about a Penn Lines rebate, do not supply any information. End the call and then notify us of the incident.
Phone scam asking about meter readings and offering a rebate
A member notified Valley REC about receiving a possible scam telephone call June 24. The caller left a voice message claiming to be from an energy company. The caller asked about a meter reading and offered a rebate. The caller recited the member's address and asked the member to call back to verify the address.
When the member played the message, she did not call back. She suspected a scam and notified Valley REC. This was the proper thing to do.
Valley is not offering any type of rebate based upon meter reading. We also remind members that our employees will never call and ask for personal, credit card, or financial information. If you receive a call from someone who claims to be with Valley REC and asks for your credit card or banking information, do not supply the information. End the call and call us at 800-432-0680 to see if the call was legitimate.
Phone scam about special program to reduce rates
There is currently a phone scam targeting the 717 area code. Other area codes might also receive the same scam phone calls.
A member notified Valley REC about receiving such a call earlier today. The telephone number was blocked, so that was the first sign that something was not right. The caller, a woman with a very heavy accent, claimed to be with the federal government and working with the member’s electric company. Valley's name was not mentioned directly. The caller claimed that she could lower the member's electric rate by 30 percent through a special program. The caller then asked repeatedly for the member's personal information and credit card information to register the member in the program. Upon the first request for the data, the member realized that this was definitely a scam and refused to give any information. The member repeatedly said that she was not interested. The caller paused for a bit (apparently looking something up) and then stated that she now saw that the member was "with Valley Rural" and was not eligible for the program. The caller quickly ended the call.
This type of call is a scam. Valley REC does not block its telephone number. The co-op is not working with the federal government on any special rate-reducing program. Valley also does not hire other companies to call on its behalf and never asks for credit card information over the phone.
If you should receive a call from someone claiming to be your electric company, do not give personal or credit card information over the phone. Ask the caller for the name of the company and for his or her name. If the caller claims to be from Valley REC but you are suspicious, end the call and call us at 800-432-0680 to see if the call was legitimate.
New phone scam demands off-site cash payments from co-op members
We would like to remind our members that Valley REC does not make phone calls demanding immediate payments. A co-op in Virginia has reported a scam in which the caller says an immediate payment has to be made and offers for an employee to meet the member off-site to collect payment. Click on the following link to read the article at Electric Co-op Today.
Phone scam targets co-op members
Beware of phone calls from people claiming to be your electric company and demanding payment.
A telephone scam is targeting members of the cooperative. The caller claims to represent an electric company (perhaps not even Valley REC). The caller states that the member's account will be disconnected for non-payment within a short period of time unless payment is made immediately over the phone. If the member replies that his or her account is with Valley REC and not the company stated, the caller (or a second person) adds that the other company is working for Valley REC. The fraudster will continue to pressure the member to pay quickly or face immediate disconnection. The caller might even give a phone number for the member to call to make payment.
DO NOT fall for this scam!
Valley Rural Electric Cooperative does not use other companies to disconnect services or solicit payments. We do offer secure electronic bill payment online and by phone, and we do calls members about disconnection. However, we do not call members to ask them for financial or personal information.
What should you do if you suspect a scam?
If you receive a call from a person claiming to be a representative of the co-op or another electric company and asking for credit card, financial, account, or Social Security information, do not give that information to the caller. If the caller instructs you to purchase a prepaid debit card and then supply the card's number, do no such thing. Instead, ask for the caller's name and then call our office at one of the numbers listed on this site or on your bill. Do not use the phone number given by the caller unless it matches one of our numbers. You can then verify whether the call was from one of our employees before supplying any information. You might also want to contact the police and report the incident.
Bill payment scam alert
While folks are seeking relief from high summer temperatures and higher electric bills, a nationwide scam is offering bogus help with those bills and stealing personal and financial information in the process. Contact is usually by phone; but it can also be via e-mails, social media, text messages, mailings, fliers, or door-to-door visits.
The fraudster claims that President Obama authorized the federal government to help pay the energy bills of consumers via a special federal program if they use a special bank routing number to pay their bills. The swindler might also ask for the consumer's Social Security number and bank routing number. Instead of the consumer's electric bill being paid, the scammers collect the money and use the consumer's personal identifying information to commit further fraud and theft.
If you receive a call or other contact about the federal government paying your electric bill, protect your personal information. Do not give your credit card, banking, electric account, or Social Security information. If the person claims to represent Valley Rural Electric Cooperative, ask for the person’s name and then call our office at one of the numbers listed on this site or on your bill. You can then verify whether the person is one of our employees before supplying any information.
For more information about the scam, read the following articles.
Watch out for people posing as co-op personnel on the telephone.
The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association recently reported that co-op consumers in various states have been receiving phone calls from fraudsters posing as co-op personnel and asking consumers to provide credit card or other financial account information and personally identifiable information over the phone. (Cooperatives have not been the only target; this is hitting utilities of all types.) There are at least two variations of this scam.
- The fraudster states that the consumer owes money on an account and will have service disconnected unless payment information is provided immediately.
- The caller claims the consumer can receive federal stimulus dollars to pay utility bills but must first provide personal information such as a Social Security Number and utility account number. (This scam appears aimed more specifically at seniors.)
All Valley Rural Electric Cooperative personnel remain vigilant in protecting member and consumer information and will follow current identity theft procedures.
If you receive a call from a person claiming to be a cooperative employee and asking for credit card, financial, account, or Social Security information, and you suspect fraud, do not give that information to the caller. Instead, ask for the caller's name and then call our office at one of the numbers listed on this site or on your bill. You can then verify whether the call was from one of our employees before supplying any information.