LEE COUNTY, Fla. -- LCEC and other utility companies are warning their customers about people claiming to be with the companies. It's a fast one people posing as bill collectors are pulling to try and get money from you.
Utility company impersonators are getting sneaky. They're calling customers and claim to collect on late bills that you don't have. Karen Ryan with LCEC said it's happening in southwest Florida.
"Company that is calling customers, telling them they are behind in their bill, asking them to go and buy a debt card and then give them the numbers off the debt card so they can get the cash," said Ryan.
Prepaid debt cards are becoming more popular as a payment for con-artists. Wire transfer services have tightened security so scammers are turning to pre-paid cards instead. The cards are hard to trace and you don't need ID to collect or spend the money.
"I don't know any of the utilities that actually calls their customers and asks for payment with a debt card," said Ryan.
LCEC said the twist recently is that they're calling their Spanish customers. They're requesting a payment of several months worth of bills. Then they tell the customers that they need to fill out an application to avoid a service interruption and pay the late bill. Something the Lee County Sheriff's Office said is a big red flag.
"If you owe somebody money, they are going to wait for you to do that check first before just saying forget it don't give me any of your money," said Stacey Payne, Lee County Sheriff's Office.
Sometimes local gas, water and electric companies can contact you by phone. Sometimes it can be hard to tell who is on the other end so there are some things to look out for.
If a caller asks you to pay by prepaid debt card, that is a red flag. Your utility company will only accept a check or credit card.
If you feel pressured for immediate payment or personal information, it is another red flag. Hang up and call the service number. That will ensure you're speaking to a real representative.
Make sure to do your due diligence before giving anyone your personal information.
"Bottom line is we need to stop and think and dont just start giving out our social security number, giving out our credit card number or our bank account number. Stop. Do a little homework first," said Payne.