Scammers now requesting payment through mobile applications
TAMPA, September 8, 2020
Tampa Electric is cautioning customers that scammers have adapted their techniques for the coronavirus pandemic: Aggressive scammers are demanding payment through mobile applications under the guise of avoiding disconnection.
About two dozen customers have heard from this scam so far.
Scam attempts have significantly increased since the pandemic started. Tampa Electric has worked with federal officials to shut down about 40 scam phone numbers in the past two months.
The new twist to the scam is: • Someone falsely claiming to be a Tampa Electric representative calls a customer from a phone number that appears to be from the utility, which is called “spoofing” and makes it more convincing. It may be a person or an automated voice. • The caller claims the account is past due and instructs the customer to buy a money order or a prepaid debit card from a local drug store – usually within 30 to 60 minutes – and demands they call back with the card’s number to avoid disconnection. • Many customers have expressed fear of going to a drug store during the pandemic. The scammer then instructs the customer to download and use a payment app instead. • In a few cases, customers have paid the scammer using a mobile payment app.
Tampa Electric urges customers to be wary of anyone claiming to be from the utility, either in person or over the phone. Various versions of this scam have affected Tampa Electric – and utilities across the country – for more than eight years.
How can you discern between a scammer and a credible Tampa Electric call? • Tampa Electric does not accept payments through mobile payment apps. • Tampa Electric never demands payment in person or calls to ask for credit card or debit card numbers. • Know the status of your account. You can view your account through Tampa Electric’s secure online portal, tecoaccount.com, or by calling the phone number listed on your bill or on our website. • TECO will always validate your account with you. For residential customers, this is typically the last four digits of your Social Security number.
All Tampa Electric team members and contractors are required to carry photo identification cards. If someone claiming to be a Tampa Electric representative visits your home or business, request to see an ID badge or call the company to verify their identity.
If you are uncertain about an individual's association with Tampa Electric – or about your bill – please contact the company for verification: • In Hillsborough County, call 813-223-0800 • In Polk County, call 863-299-0800 • In all other areas, call 1-888-223-0800
Tampa Electric is a member of the Utilities United Against Scams (UUAS) collaborative. The group consists of more than 130 gas, electric and water utility companies across the country and Canada. Members of the organization work across the utility industry and with regulators, law enforcement and telecommunications partners to help stop scams targeting utility customers. UUAS has helped shut down nearly 5,000 toll-free phone numbers used by utility-impostor scammers.
Tampa Electric, one of Florida’s largest investor-owned electric utilities, serves about 780,000 customers in West Central Florida. Tampa Electric is a subsidiary of Emera Inc., a geographically diverse energy and services company headquartered in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.
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TECO Energy, Inc.
702 N. Franklin Street
Tampa, Florida 33602
Tampa Electric is an Emera company.
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