The largest utility provider in Iowa is warning customers about a phone scam. MidAmerican Energy spokeswoman Ashton Newman says 1,500 customers contacted the utility to report receiving a suspect call in 2014. “The good news is the majority of our customers appear to not be falling for these scams and they are hanging up and calling our customer service number to report them,” Newman says.
Of the 1,500 customers who contacted MidAmerican about receiving a suspect call last year, just over 40 of those customers reported losing money or disclosing personal information to the scammer. Newman says the scam artist, claiming to work for MidAmerican, is typically persistent and demands money by threatening to cut off utility services. “And generally, they ask the customer to pay them over the phone by either calling a special toll-free number or by providing a credit card number or prepaid debit card, often referred to as a Green Dot card,” Newman says.
The thieves often go so far as to make it appear to Caller ID systems that the scam call is coming from the utility. The scammers can be aggressive, which Newman says isn’t a technique an actual MidAmerican Energy employee would use. “We also never ask for credit card numbers or any personal account numbers or information over the phone. So, that’s kind of the first red flag,” Newman says. Customers who receive a call threatening immediate disconnection, Newman says they should hang up immediately and call MidAmerican Energy customer service at 1-888-427-5632.
She notes MidAmerican Energy makes several attempts to contact customers regarding overdue bills; disconnection is a last resort, not a first step in the process.