On August 1, MidAmerican Energy launched an awareness campaign, “Slam the Scam,” to prevent customers from falling victim to energy fraud.
MidAmerican Energy serves 752,000 electric customers and 733,000 natural gas customers in Iowa, Illinois, South Dakota, and Nebraska. On average, the company said, it receives approximately 100 reported scams each month – and, this year, customers have reported losing nearly $9,000 dollars to swindlers.
“Our message is simple,” said Terry Ousley, vice president of Customer Satisfaction for Des Moines, Iowa-based MidAmerican Energy. “If you receive a questionable phone call or if someone suspicious shows up at your home or business, slam down the phone or slam the door and immediately call MidAmerican Energy to check on your account; and call local police to report the scam.”
Ousley said scammers target all customers in all regions. “They’re bold, aggressive and use sophisticated tactics,” he said. “Once people start to catch on, the scammers move to a different area and change their approach. While we can’t stop their calls, we can educate our customers to try to make their attempts unsuccessful.”
One of the most common scams works like this: A scammer calls a customer pretending to be a MidAmerican Energy representative. Often, scammers “spoof” caller ID to make the call appear as if it is coming from MidAmerican Energy when it is not. The imposter tells the customer their account is past due and threatens to immediately disconnect service if they do not make a payment.
One of the biggest red flags: The scammer demanding payment in the form of a credit card or prepaid debit card, often referred to as a Green Dot card, and wanting it quickly – sometimes in less than an hour. MidAmerican Energy does not accept prepaid debit cards as a way to pay bills, and they do not ask for credit card information over the phone.
“That is not how we operate,” said Ousley. “If someone is behind on payments, [he or she] will receive several notifications, including a notice in the mail, before disconnection takes place. We offer many payment options. Disconnection is a last resort, not a first step.”
Some scammers are even brave enough to approach customers in person, either by ringing their door bell or showing up at their business. The scammers may arrive in what looks like a MidAmerican Energy work vehicle, and they may wear official-looking vests or uniforms to appear like an energy worker. However, MidAmerican Energy personnel do not show up unannounced.
A video and campaign information can be found on theSlam the Scam webpage.