The Better Business Bureau serving Central East Texas cautions consumers to be wary of phony calls from individuals posing as employees of local utility companies.

The utility imposter scam is most common during the summer and winter months. Scammers will typically reach you by phone, email or at your door, claiming to be a representative with the company. The goal of the scammer is to steal your money or valuable personal information. The BBB advises consumers to be on the lookout for these bogus utility representatives.

How the scam works:

Via phone, email or text, someone identifies themselves as a representative from your local utility company. They inform you that your bill is late and threaten to turn off your utilities unless it is paid immediately. They also may claim the meter is not working properly and must be immediately replaced at the customer's expense. They demand that the bill be paid immediately via wire transfer, prepaid card or other unconventional form of payment.

A legitimate provider will not ask you for private information like your Social Security number or birthdate, nor will they ask you to pay via unconventional payment methods. If ever in doubt, call your service provider directly.

The BBB offers the following tips to avoid falling victim to the utility imposter scam:

• Hang up the phone. Be wary if you are asked to provide credit card numbers or banking information over the phone. Hang up and call the utility company directly to verify whether you owe money.

• Never give out personal information. Never provide bank account numbers, date of birth, credit card numbers or Social Security number to unidentified individuals.

• Watch for unusual forms of payment. If you are contacted to make a wire transfer or use a prepaid card to pay a utility bill, report the incident immediately to your utility company by using the number found on your invoice.

• If you feel pressured for immediate payment or personal information, hang up the phone and call the customer service number on your utility bill. This will ensure you are speaking to a legitimate company representative.

• Remember that electrical meters are the property of the utility company and would be the responsibility of the utility to replace or repair.

• Never allow anyone into your home to check electrical wiring, natural gas pipes or appliances unless you have scheduled an appointment or reported a problem.

For more information on how to be a savvy consumer, go to bbb.org. To report fraudulent activity or unscrupulous business practices, please call 903-581-5704 or use BBB Scam Tracker.

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