Jennifer Leach, Consumer Education Specialist with the Federal Trade Commission, writes in a Sept. 30 blog, “Paying for a Threat,” of scam artists increasingly directing consumers to use online money transfer services, prepaid cards or gift cards to pay them.
She refers to one example where a caller, using an apparent local area code, falsely claims that power will be shut off to a consumer’s home for failure to pay the utility bill, unless the bill is paid immediately as directed by the caller. The scammer directs the consumer to make payment via an online money transfer service or by using a prepaid credit/debit card or a gift card.
According to Leach, these forms of payment, while legitimate and convenient, nevertheless, can allow unscrupulous people to “get your money in a way that doesn’t let you ever get it back.”
Leach also reminds consumers that telephone numbers looking as if they are from your area code may simply be computer-generated – callers may actually be far away.
She suggests consumers be careful when receiving calls or email/text messages demanding payment. If unsure, consumers can call the utility company or company the caller claims to represent directly at a telephone number known to be correct to see if there is anything to the caller’s claim.
To read the blog, go online at www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/paying-threat.