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Protect Your Utility’s Customers From Scammers

image credit: ID 139048220 © khairulannuar mat | Dreamstime.com

Scammers are all around us.

Consider: How many calls do you get each day with half-baked “warnings” that you owe money or pitches for products, services or reduced mortgage rates? And that number probably is growing.

And utilities certainly aren’t immune. It seems like every week I read about scams where callers ask utility customers about bill payments.

Whenever you hear that someone is pretending to represent your utility, you need to take action immediately.

Even if you aren’t put in a good light (not your fault, of course), you must own up to the issue promptly.

To get your message out, you should start with a widely distributed press release. I assume you maintain a list of relevant media outlets, including contacts. That list should include every media outlet in your coverage area, as well as potential outlets and key trade press. Update the list often – at least twice a year.

But don’t stop there.

Follow up is important, especially with your main outlets. Never assume that your emails (or any form of communication) will be seen or heard. Things sometimes get lost in the shuffle for journalists, who receive numerous communications each and every day.

As for the release’s content, explain the problem using plain language. Describe the scammers’ tactics in detail -- and explain how it contrasts with your actual policies.

For example, your utility probably doesn’t call residential customers about delinquent balances or disconnections. Tell them how you actually do contact customers.

Keep things short and to the point – and include plenty of contact information in case customers have questions.

And aside from the press release, there are other tactics suitable for alerting your clientele.

● Mail warnings and other information as bill inserts.

● Mention the warnings on your telephone “hold” messages.

● Post details prominently on your website.

● Send email alerts.

● Buy radio or television spots if the problem is a major one.

Andy Gotlieb's picture

Thank Andy for the Post!

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