HOUSTON – Utility scams increase after large storm events. CenterPoint Energy is continuing its efforts to raise awareness and educate customers about utility imposter scams.
Just two days after Hurricane Nicholas made landfall, Catherine Lennington of Clear Lake received a call from scammers pretending to be representatives from CenterPoint Energy demanding money.
“It was kind of scary because it was so specific,” Lennington said.
Lennington received a recording that said her August and September bill was not paid.
“It said if I didn’t pay immediately, they would turn off my power within 45 minutes and they said press 1 to make the payment now,” she said.
KPRC 2 News tried calling the same number and received a message that the number was non-working.
“I hung up, checked to be sure that I thought I had paid my bills, and verified that I had. I called CenterPoint Energy to let them know about this situation,” Lennington said.
It’s those critical steps that saved Lennington money. She’s calling on officials to keep people informed as clean-up efforts continue after Nicholas.
“When you hear about a new scam or people start getting calls, let other people know. That’s why I called you all and I felt like a lot of people are going to hear this recording and I want them to know it’s not real,” she said.
To avoid falling victim to any scam, CenterPoint Energy reminds customers of the following:
- Protecting personal and financial customer data is of utmost importance to CenterPoint Energy;
- CenterPoint Energy phone agents (whether inbound or outbound) will NEVER personally request banking or credit card information over the phone, but will instead transfer a customer to an Interactive Voice Response system to collect payment information for natural gas bills;
- If someone calls, texts, appears, or emails saying you must pay your bill immediately to avoid disconnection, tell them you would like to verify that they are a legitimate utility company representative by calling a verified number on the utility’s website or on your monthly bill. Verify the identity of the individual requesting information before sharing credit card numbers and any personal information;
- Contact 911 and report suspicious activity to the local police.
- Please call and report the incident to the local utility provider and the Better Business Bureau.
Officials also said, CenterPoint Energy is a transmission and distribution delivery company, therefore we do not directly bill customers for their electric service. Customers may contact their retail electric provider directly with billing questions.