Beware: Email scam and utility bills

Beware: Email scam and utility bills
Warning from the Ohio Attorney General
Warning from the Ohio Attorney General

COLUMBUS, OH (WOIO) - To add to the chill of winter some cyber criminals are trying to take advantage of unsuspecting Ohioans to make some money off of phony utility bills.

This scam is hitting the email inboxes of residents across the state.

The Attorney General's office has received more than 30 reports in the past two weeks.

"With bitterly cold temperatures affecting the state, you might expect your utility bill to be higher than usual," Attorney General MikeDeWine warned. "But if you're receiving unexpected utility bills from a company that's not your utility company, it's likely a scam. Don't respond to the message and don't make a payment unless you have proof you owe the money."

In a typical variation of the scam, a consumer receives an email message claiming to be from PG&E or another out-of-state utility company.

The emails look legitimate.

The message often claims the consumer owes money and may contain a link to view the consumer's account or most recent statement.

Do not click the links.

Not only could you mess up your computer, but compromise your bank account.

To protect yourself follow these tips

• Don't respond to unexpected email messages from senders you don't know

• Don't click on any of the links or open attachments

• Copy and paste the email's first few sentences into an Internet search engine and add the word "scam"

• Skim the email for misspelled words or grammatical errors

• Designate unwanted email as junk before deleting it so future messages from that sender are routed to your junk mailbox.

• When in doubt, call your utility company using a number you know to be legitimate, such as a number on your most recent statement.

• Know your rights. During the heating season which runs November 1 through April 15 natural gas and electric companies generally must give you 24 days notice before disconnecting your service.

Contact the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio to learn more and to compare electric or natural gas offers in your region.

If you suspect a scam or an unfair business practice should contact the Ohio Attorney General's Office at 800-282-0515.