It seems NEC is always sending warnings about utility scams, and now the FCC's Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau has issued an alert warning consumers of a scam in which consumers are being called and told they owe money to their utility companies and that they must pay by prepaid debit cards, credit cards, or gift cards.
The scam is always the same story. A member receives a phone call from someone, usually posing as a representative of NEC (or another utility), saying their payment had been denied, or never received, and demands immediate payment or they would shut off their power. They are even known for spoofing our telephone number so the caller ID makes it appear to be a call from Victory Electric.
These are the primary utility scams:
Scammers insist they need to pay their bill immediately or they will be disconnected. They tell them to purchase green dot money cards and call them with the verification codes.
Scammers insist they need to pay their bill immediately or they will be disconnected. They ask them to verify the credit card or bank account they used to pay their bill.
A person comes to your door demanding payment or they will pull your meter.
These are a popular method of payment for scammers. Wire transfer services have tightened their security, so crooks have turned to these prepaid cards instead. The cards are difficult to trace, you do not need photo identification to collect or spend the money and transactions cannot be reversed.
If you receive a call or a visit from someone telling you NEC will disconnect your power unless you provide a debit or credit card or a personal financial account number, close the door or hang up and contact us.
If an NEC employee contacts you by phone, it is the policy of NEC to NEVER request confidential, personal financial information – like a credit card number or checking/savings routing and account numbers. Only give your confidential financial information to the cooperative if you have contacted us directly to make a payment. Chances are, anyone contacting members asking for a payment is not employed or authorized by NEC.
We want NEC members to know about possible scams. We encourage you to play it safe and always contact NEC directly. Never give anyone who contacts you your credit card or bank account information.
Prepaid debit cards are a popular method of payment for scammers. Wire transfer services have tightened their security, so crooks have turned to these prepaid cards instead. The cards are difficult to trace, you do not need photo identification to collect or spend the money and transactions cannot be reversed.
Because NEC does sometimes contact members by phone, it can be difficult to tell a scammer from a member representative. Here are some tips:
- If a caller specifically asks you to pay by prepaid debit card, this is a red flag.
- If you feel pressured for immediate payment or personal information, hang up the phone and call the customer service number on your bill. This will ensure you are speaking to a real representative.
- Never allow anyone into your home to check electrical wiring, pipes or appliances unless you have scheduled an appointment or reported a problem. Also, ask employees for proper identification.
These types of scam continue to make their way around the country on a regular basis. All utility industries have been on alert for this scam previously and as long as the scammers continue to make money, it will unfortunately continue to be an issue for all industries.
If you receive a suspicious call, capture as much information about the caller as possible. After calling NEC directly to confirm we did not contact you, notify your local authorities. However, if the person is at your home, please be safe and contact the local authorities for assistance.
Third Party Bill Payment Services
If you have decided to read the fine print, congratulations! To be honest, it is a struggle with busy schedules and hectic lives to take the time to read the fine print on any document or website, however, neglecting or ignoring critical information can sometimes lead people to assume things which simply are not true.
For example, some online payment services legally publish information about the NEC and other utilities on their website. However, not all the information they publish is accurate. If you “Google” NEC to find our website, there are several third party payment companies that will also come up in your search. The most prominent Google result is doxo.com. The payment page even displays the NEC logo and contact information to market its online bill payment service to potential customers, so it can be a source of confusion for someone paying online for the first time.
Doxo, and other third party payment services are legitimate payment processors that allow you to pay multiple bills on the same website. While the service they provide often works just fine, many people experienced situations where payments have been sent to the wrong utility and/or arrived after the due date of their bill. Because the cooperative is not affiliated with Doxo and have not authorized them to use our logo and materials, this can lead to mistakes and interruptions in electric service. NEC cannot control when we will receive the member’s payment from DOXO, which may result in a late payment from the member or even disconnection due to nonpayment. Not only that, but DOXO makes their money by charging members extra fees for the “convenience” of processing their transactions.
Bottom line: The most affordable (TRULY FREE), safe and secure form of payment is using our payment portal, NEC's online bill payment site. SmartHub is a website and mobile device app that makes it easy to view and pay your electric bill with your computer, smart phone or tablet.
If you deliberately choose to utilize a third party payment processor, remember, they will likely charge you an additional fee and you will have little control over when the payment is delivered to us.
To avoid using third party payment processors by mistake, keep the following in mind when paying your bill online:
- Type nec.coop directly into your browser window rather than using Google to find the website. (if you do use Google, be sure to click on the first result and note the website address is nec.coop)
- Visit nec.coop prior to paying your bill to familiarize yourself with the look and feel of the website. This will make it easier for you to recognize when you are on our site vs. a lookalike.
- Remember, if you are being charged a service charge, you ARE on a third party site. NEC will not charge you an additional fee to pay your bill online through our Online payment portal.
Be careful, read the fine print for any red flags, and if you have questions about paying your bill online, please do not hesitate to call one of our member services representatives. We would be glad to help walk you through the process.