Scammers are taking advantage of the public – including the Hispanic community – by impersonating energy company representatives.

Using a service disconnection threat, scammers try to convince the consumer to purchase prepaid debit cards and provide the card information to them. Utility company officials warn you to not be fooled.

“(The Better Business Bureau) has received several recent reports that businesses and consumers are being targeted by scam artists who are impersonating utility workers via phone,” said Jim Temmer, president/CEO of the BBB Serving Wisconsin. “We’ve also discovered that Hispanic consumers are being targeted by Spanish-speaking scammers.
“We want to spread the word – and ask that you help – by telling your family, friends, and neighbors about this scam circulating.”

“Over 600 scam reports have been made by our customers in the past month. Unfortunately, some customers have fallen victim to the scam and have lost thousands of dollars. These scammers will say anything to frighten you, but We Energies does not solicit payment in a threatening manner,” said John Zaganczyk, vice president of customer service at We Energies.

How the scam works:
• Caller claims to be from We Energies. Some scammers provide a fake ID number and may use software to display We Energies’ company name on your phone. Sometimes they use a recording of the We Energies’ greeting to sound legitimate.
• Caller claims you are behind on bill payment or have a malfunctioning meter that you must replace, adding that the cost is rebated after installation.
• Caller tells you to go to a nearby store — often Walmart, Walgreens or CVS — to buy a pre-paid Visa debit card, sometimes referred to as a Green Dot card or MoneyPak card.
• Caller tells you an exact amount for the card, makes the request urgent and threatens disconnection.
• Caller provides a phone number to call with the card’s numbers. Once given, the money goes from the card to the scammer. There usually is no way for the loss to be reimbursed.
Scammers also may claim that the electric meter is not working properly and must be immediately replaced – at your expense – or the electricity will be shut off. Other scammers are using email. Watch for emails disguised as overdue notices from your utility company. Clicking on a link or attachment will load malware on your computer.

We Energies explains that it does not solicit payment from customers in a threatening manner. If you get a call that sounds suspicious, hang up immediately and call We Energies at 800-242-9137.

If you act quickly, you may be able to request a refund if the scammer has not yet cashed the pre-paid card.

MoneyPak, the company that issues the Green Dot cards, has an online tool that allows you to request a refund.
For more information or further inquiries, contact the Wisconsin BBB , or call 414-847-6000 or 800-273-1002.

Rex Davenport

Rex Davenport is a reporter, editor and editorial project manager with more than 40 years of experience in newspaper, business magazines and other content channels.