FTC Warns of Utility Bill Scam That Asks for Payment via GreenDot, Paypal or Prepaid Gift Card

Tips for Consumers

Imagine receiving a phone call from your utility company saying they’re about to cut off your electricity. The caller ID looks like it might be a legitimate phone number, but you know you’ve paid your bill. The caller says, “I can stop this, but only if you pay me.”

It’s a scam, but there’s a new twist.  Instead of asking you to wire money, a new scam wants you to use GreenDot, buy a prepaid gift card, or use PayPal. Scammers using reloadable debit cards, gift cards, or PayPal is not new, but it’s growing. It lets them get your money in a way that you’ll never get it back.

Scammers can use computers to make it look like they’re calling from one place – when, in fact, they’re someplace else.  If you get a call, email, text, or even a visit from someone telling you to make a payment via PayPal, or to buy a GreenDot card or a gift card, it’s probably a scam.  Call your utility company on the phone number that appears on your bill, describe what happened, and report the scammers to the Federal Trade Commission, online or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP.

The Federal Trade Commission works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them.  To file a complaint in English or Spanish, visit the FTC’s online Complaint Assistant or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357).  The FTC enters complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 2,000 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.  The FTC’s website provides free information on a variety of consumer topics.  Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.

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