During pandemic, scammers also asking for payment through mobile apps
TAMPA, July 2, 2021
Tampa Electric is cautioning customers that scammers have adapted their techniques for the coronavirus pandemic: As many people are working from home, aggressive scammers are showing up in person and demanding immediate payment under the guise of replacing equipment.
Scam attempts have significantly increased since the pandemic started last year. Scammers know that when someone’s distracted, they’re more likely to fall victim to their scam. That’s why scam activity increases around holidays, during busy times and in times of crisis. Tampa Electric has worked with federal officials to shut down nearly 90 scam phone numbers in the past 12 months.
The basic premise of the scam is: • Someone falsely claiming to be a Tampa Electric representative contacts a customer, claims the account is past due and demands immediate payment. • In a growing number of cases, the scammer shows up in person, knocks on the door and demands cash in exchange for repairing or replacing some equipment. They may have a TECO decal on their vehicle. • Typically, the scammer calls a customer from a phone number that falsely appears to be TECO, called “spoofing,” which makes it more convincing. The call may be from a person or an automated voice. • The scammer instructs the customer to buy a money order or a prepaid debit card from a local convenience store or drug store – usually within 30 to 60 minutes – and demands they call back with the card’s number to avoid disconnection. • Shop clerks have been instrumental in discouraging customers from buying prepaid debit cards to pay the fake utility bills, so some scammers discourage customers from mentioning that the card is for a utility payment. • During the height of the pandemic, many customers expressed fear of going to a store to purchase a card. The scammer then instructs the customer to download and use a payment app instead. • In some cases, customers have paid the scammers thousands of dollars.
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 nearly a decade.
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 an imposter shows up in person pretending to be from Tampa Electric, immediately report it to your local law enforcement agency.
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
How can you discern between a scammer and a credible Tampa Electric call? • Tampa Electric never demands payment in person or calls to ask for credit card or debit card numbers. • Tampa Electric does not accept payments through mobile payment apps. • 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.
Tampa Electric is a member of the Utilities United Against Scams (UUAS) collaborative. The group consists of more than 140 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.
Tampa Electric, one of Florida’s largest investor-owned electric utilities, serves about 800,000 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.
For journalist inquiries only:
TECO Energy, Inc.
702 N. Franklin Street
Tampa, Florida 33602
Tampa Electric is an Emera company.
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