31 May 2017
AG Joins with Vermont Power Companies, Retailers to Protect Vermonters from Scammers Posing as Utilities
Williston- Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan joined with Vermont power companies, businesses, and residents to launch a new campaign to protect Vermonters from being scammed by people pretending to be a utility.
These scammers call residents and businesses demanding immediate payment for electricity with a credit card, pre-paid card or money order. Utilities report these scams are increasing and scammers are becoming more sophisticated and tech savvy in their scams. To raise awareness and protect Vermonters, the Attorney General’s office started the “Scam Buster” campaign, reminding people to stop, ask, and confirm before they make any payment to avoid being scammed.
“Protecting Vermonters is the number one focus of our office,” said Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan. “Our team is working with local businesses and utilities to raise awareness. If any Vermonter is not sure about who is on the other end of the phone, they should not make a payment and call the AG office or their local utility.”
Felicia Charland works at the Holiday Inn in Shelburne and received one of those scam calls. “The tone and tactics of the person on the other end didn’t sound like my local utility. They were pressuring me for immediate payment. I started asking questions and then hung up, called my local power company Green Mountain Power and the attorney general. I am so glad this campaign is raising awareness, helping prevent anyone from losing money to a scammer,” Charland said.
Businesses including Walmart and CVS will put up posters and make sure employees are on alert for people who come in needing to buy a pre-paid card to pay a utility bill.
“Walmart is happy to assist the Attorney General in creating awareness in order to protect Vermont consumers. We are working to train our associates to notice the warning signs of these scams,” said Jason Klipa, Director of Public Affairs, Walmart.
The Vermont Attorney General was joined by representatives from Burlington Electric Department, Washington Electric Co-op, Vermont Electric Co-op and Green Mountain Power.
“As we focus every day on delivering exceptional customer care to members of the Burlington community, the new Scam Buster campaign provides another important tool for our effort,” said Andi Higbee, Burlington Electric’s Director of Customer Care. “We must remain vigilant in staying two steps ahead of the misguided people who try to take advantage of our customers. We appreciate the collaboration with the AG’s office and our utility colleagues that led to creating this new program.”
“We are pleased to join in this effort to protect hardworking Vermonters from phone scammers and swindlers. We will stand together to fight the bad actors that trick people, many of whom are our most vulnerable Members,” said Sue Bernier, VEC’s Manager of Member Services. “Please verify when money is demanded of you. Hang up and call your local utility to have them check your account before you release funds. Thank you, Attorney General Donovan, for helping to raise awareness about this important issue and for helping to ensure that cheaters don’t win.”
“Anyone can fall prey to scams and unfortunately more of these incidents are occurring across Vermont”, said Patty Richards, Washington Electric Coop’s General Manager. Getting the word out and reminding Vermonters to be wary of calls asking for immediate payment are one step to stop thieves. “This is a terrible thing scammers are doing; they not only steal money but they leave the victim feeling violated and embarrassed”. If you receive a call asking for payment from your utility be sure it is really your power company. When in doubt take action, and hang up. You can always place a call directly to your electric utility and verify if you owe money.
“This is an important awareness campaign that will protect the customers we serve, and Green Mountain Power is appreciative of the Attorney General leading this effort as we all work together to make sure these scammers don’t succeed,” said Mary Morris who leads the customer care team at Green Mountain Power. “These scammers are using technology, becoming more manipulative, even having numbers that look official as if the call is coming from the utility. This proactive effort will help tremendously, and raise awareness that customers should stop, ask and confirm before they feel pressured to make a payment.”
The Attorney General advises Vermonters who may be targets of scamming activity to report it to the Consumer Assistance Program (CAP) at 1-800-649-2424, or go to the CAP website for more information: https://www.uvm.edu/consumer?Page=scams.html
Christopher Curtis, Chief of Public Protection, Assistant Attorney General 802-828-5586, Christopher.firstname.lastname@example.org
Andrea Cohen, Vermont Electric Cooperative, 802.696.9036, email@example.com
Patty Richards, Washington Electric Cooperative, 802.223.5245, firstname.lastname@example.org
Mike Kanarick, Burlington Electric Department, 802.735.7962, email@example.com
Kristin Carlson, Green Mountain Power, 802.229.8200, firstname.lastname@example.org