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West Virginia AG warns of utility shutoff scam

CHARLESTON — Impostors claiming to represent a utility service are threatening service shut offs because of nonpayment during the coronavirus pandemic, the attorney general of West Virginia Friday said.

The state’s largest utilities including American Electric Power, First Energy, Dominion Energy and West Virginia American Water are among others that have announced a suspension of utility shutoffs as consumers cope with fallout from the pandemic, Attorney General Patrick Morrisey said.

The office’s Consumer Protection Division has received numerous reports this week of impostors using the name of recognizable utilities and the threat of disconnects to steal the consumer’s money or personal, identifiable information. One consumer lost $2,500, Morrisey said.

“I applaud the Public Service Commission and every utility that agrees to suspend shutoff notifications during this perilous time,” Morrisey said. “The coronavirus continues to impact every aspect of life, and acts of generosity such as this provide some peace of mind to consumers across West Virginia. Anyone receiving a shutoff notice should contact their provider to ensure it is not a scam.”

The Consumer Protection Hotline, 1 800 368-8808, is available to report scams, price gouging or other cases where someone may try to take advantage of consumers during the pandemic. Written complaints can also be filed at www.wvago.gov.

Utility scams typically demand immediate payment and threaten service disconnection if the targeted consumer fails to cooperate or questions the caller’s legitimacy. Such calls typically come from an impostor who claims to represent a familiar utility.

Consumers should be wary of any caller who gives inadequate notice of an impending disconnect or interruption in service or demands prepaid debit cards, such as Green Dot cards, as a form of payment.

In all cases, consumers should be cautious with any unsolicited email, phone call or other forms of communication. They should never share personally identifiable, financial and otherwise sensitive data or agree to send cash, wire money or provide numbers associated with a credit/debit card, gift card or bank account without verifying the legitimacy of the recipient.

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