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Calling for Cash

Avoid the traps and prevent yourself from becoming the next phone scam victim

Calling for Cash

Photo by burdun - stock.adobe.com

Scammer meets victim. It may be a tale as old as time, but the end results are no fairytale.

The attempts are also ever-changing, with every turn a new twist. Oklahoma’s electric cooperative members have experienced a wide variety of scammers trying to relieve them of their hard-earned money. In one example, scammers have informed the co-op member of a “rebate” they would get because of their good payment history. On the other end of the spectrum, scammers have also claimed a member is behind on their bill then demanded payment with a credit card over the phone.

Scammers will often attempt to pressure victims with a time sensitive deadline into sharing personal finance information or purchasing a prepaid credit or debit card, like the Green Dot card. The Green Dot Prepaid Card essentially works like a PayPal account; once the card is purchased—for whatever amount—it can then be accessed with a PIN number, and funds transferred or debited to an account.

Central Electric Cooperative based in Stillwater, Oklahoma, has been proactive in preventing members from becoming victims. Central encourages members to be on alert when receiving calls from people claiming to be with the cooperative.

“One way to tell if a call from Central is legitimate is to check the caller ID,” said Tara Crawford, director of member services. “Calls from Central are going to be from the 405 area code, so be cautious of toll free or suspicious area codes.”

To protect yourself and others, follow these helpful tips from the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association and the Better Business Bureau:

  • Learn your local cooperative’s procedures and practices for contacting you.
  • Check your caller ID before answering the phone. Note the location and the area code.
  • If someone calls demanding you pay your electric bill immediately, gather as much information as you can from that individual, hang up the phone, contact the Oklahoma Attorney General Consumer Protection Division and inform your local electric cooperative.
  • Your local electric cooperative will never ask you to offer up personal finance information over the phone.
  • If you have any doubts about your utility bill, contact your member payment center either in person or over the phone.
  • If someone comes to your home claiming to be an employee of your local electric cooperative that needs to collect money or inspect parts of your property, call your local co-op to verify they are, in fact, an employee. If they are not, call local authorities for assistance and do not let the individual into your home.

There are other types of scams consumers should watch out for as well:

  • Government agencies like the IRS will never call to inform you that you have unpaid taxes or other liens against you. You will always receive this type of information in the mail. If someone calls claiming to be the IRS, hang up immediately.
  • If you receive an email from an unknown sender; an email riddled with spelling errors and typos; or an email threatening action unless a sum of money is paid, do not click any links provided within the email, and do not respond to the email. Simply delete the email or send it to your spam folder.
  • If someone calls claiming to have discovered a virus on your computer, hang up. This caller’s intent is to access personal information you may be keeping on your computer.

Remember that anyone is a potential victim. Educate yourself and share information with friends and family regularly to avoid falling into the next trap.