With people spending more time at home because of the COVID-19 pandemic, imposters are taking advantage of residents who may be alone to rob them of their possessions and financial information. These imposters can show up at small businesses as well as homes.
In this latest scam, an individual may pose as an employee from ComEd, another utility or a tree service company. They will lure the resident or small-business owner outside to discuss work that they claim needs to be completed. While the individual is outside, an accomplice will enter the home or business to steal valuables and documents containing the individual’s personal or financial information.
“We see an unsettling number of scams involving imposters who take advantage of unsuspecting ComEd customers,” said Nichole Owens, ComEd vice president of customer channels. “To help protect families and businesses from fraudulent activity that could affect their electric service, finances and personal property, it’s important to help customers know what to look out for.”
Since 2017, ComEd has tracked a 60-percent increase in reports of scams and scam attempts into its call center. For these reasons, ComEd reminds customers to be on the lookout for imposters trying to steal from them using energy-related scams.
As the COVID-19 pandemic takes a financial toll on families and businesses across northern Illinois, scammers also are increasing their efforts to take advantage of vulnerable customers who may be struggling to pay their bills. During the pandemic, ComEd has received reports of scammers posing as utility representatives who contact customers experiencing difficulty paying their bills. These imposters prey on these customers’ financial situation by falsely threatening to shut off service to obtain money or a customer’s personal, business or financial information.
Another common scheme involves scammers using technology to make their phone calls appear to come from a ComEd phone number and threatening to turn off a customer’s service unless they make a direct payment with a prepaid cash card. Sometimes they ask victims to call back at a different phone number and provide personal information. In other attempts, scammers send emails to businesses and request that they send ComEd payments to bogus payment web sites.
Here are some tips to help identify scams
- ComEd will never come to a customer’s home or business to:
• Demand a payment.
• Ask for immediate payment with a prepaid cash card.
• Ask for their ComEd account number or other personal information, such as a driver’s license number.
- ComEd will never call a customer to:
• Ask for their account number.
• Ask for personal information such as their Social Security number or bank information.
• Ask them to make a direct payment with a prepaid cash card.\
- To identify an actual ComEd employee, remember:
• All ComEd field employees wear a uniform, including shirt and safety vest, with the ComEd logo.
• ComEd employees visibly display a company ID badge with the ComEd logo and employee’s name. |A ComEd worker who is unable to access equipment, such as the meter or pedestal transformer, may knock on a customer’s door.
Any customer who is unsure whether a visitor or caller is a ComEd employee or believes he or she has been a target or victim of a scam should call 1-800-EDISON-1 (1-800-334-7661) immediately. To learn more, visit ComEd.com/ScamAlert.
Staying current on bills to avoid being targeted by scammers
ComEd understands that COVID-19 continues to create economic hardship for many customers. To help customers remain current with their bills and avoid becoming targets of scammers, ComEd offers several bill-payment assistance programs, including flexible payment options, financial assistance for past-due balances and usage alerts for current bills.
In 2020 alone, ComEd helped connect customers to more than $70 million in financial assistance, which supported more than a quarter of a million customers with stabilizing grants. Any customer who is experiencing a hardship or difficulty with their electric bill should call ComEd immediately at 1-800-334-7661 (1-800-EDISON-1), Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. to learn more and enroll in a program. For more information, visit ComEd.com/PaymentAssistance.