Utility Scams on the Rise … Be Proactive!

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Why you should be proactive to prevent customers falling for utility scams?

Utility Scam Educate Customers

As an industry insider, we think it’s obvious when we get a utility scam phone call. We understand that as a revenue generating operation there is protocol in place. Asking for a credit card or payment on the spot is not how it works.  Yet, to your customer, it’s not that simple.

Here are 4 reasons why providing outreach to your customers about your procedures will protect them from being victimized by scams is so important.

  1. Our customers don’t live and breathe utility operations every day, as we do.

    Therefore, we need to be clear and simple on our policies and procedures because they just don’t know how utilities work.

  2. It’s an opportunity to build trusting relationships with your customers.

    Educating customers on how scams work, or how your utility works will help with public relations, value and the level of trust with your customers.

  3. Don’t wait until the scam has started and is hurting your customers.

    Educate beforehand and help them understand your processes and how you work. Have the materials prepared prior to scams being active in your area.  Then they you will be prepared for if/when it happens. Don’t wait until customers are panicked or have been a victim.  Providing meaningful outreach in advance will be useful to your customers.  Areas to share the information include: website, social media, bill inserts, community events and high face to face contact areas.

  4. You are professionals so outreach should match your expertise.

    Utility services are a necessity for most Americans. Because of that, we see that some utilities don’t realize the importance of quality communication.  As an outreach focused company that works solely with utilities, the lack of professionalism in many outreach pieces continues to surprise us.  The technical training and understanding that is required to provide reliable services, in water, electric, streets and sewer departments etc. is extensive. Yet, the outreach quality doesn’t match the hard work and professionalism of the teams at work.  Just because utilities aren’t in a competitive atmosphere for customers doesn’t mean they shouldn’t take pride in their company.  Utilities should be proud of their work and demonstrate their professionalism in every facet of their business.

Here is what you should include in the outreach you create:

  1. Type of Scam.    The details on the type(s) of scams going around; phone calls, emails etc.
  2. Utility Process.  The process of your utility when communicating with customers, if the utility is close to shutting off their service or a bill is past due.  Do you send notifications via email?   Postal service?  How many do you send? Do you ever call and ask for money?
  3. Prepaid Visa or Gift Cards. Reiterate the fact that you’d never ask for a prepaid debit card or gift card, or immediate payment right then or shut off would occur.
  4. Balance Due. Ways to find out their current balance due. Online account login, phone number, monthly bill in mail … etc.
  5. Contact information.  Clearly list your contact information so customers know how to contact you if anyone calls or emails with suspicious requests.  Educate customers to always call the utility back on a number they found or have for you, not the number the phone call gave them.  They must call you (the utility) prior to paying any money.

You may not think outreach is important if a scam hasn’t come to your community. Unfortunately, no one is immune. Therefore, remember to include education and outreach in your budget.  This will prepare your customers, your staff and help with customer relations.

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