November 12, 2020
City, NV – Nevada
Attorney General Aaron D. Ford is warning Nevadans to be cautious of increasingly
sophisticated utility imposter scams as winter approaches and COVID-19 cases
increase. Scammers attempt to mislead and defraud consumers and small local
“Scammers use technology to capitalize
on times of uncertainty and hardship,” said AG
Ford. "Protect yourself and your family by learning how to
identify utility imposter scams involving QR codes sent directly to your smart
Imposter scams, both online and
over the phone, come in many forms. The basic utility imposter scam involves a
scammer posing as a member of a reputable utility company demanding money from
unsuspecting customers. These types of scams unfortunately victimize both the
consumer and the utility company.
In a typical utility imposter
scam, the scammer often calls from a number that has been "spoofed"
to look like it belongs to the actual company; however, it is just an attempt
to add legitimacy to the scam. The scammer usually explains that the consumer
is behind on his or her utility bill and demands immediate payment to avoid a
shutoff of utilities.
A new sophisticated twist to
this basic scam involves the scammer requesting the consumer to go to a bill
pay kiosk while the scammer remains on the phone. The scammer instructs the consumer
to pay the bill pay kiosk in cash so the payment cannot be tracked. The scammer
then texts a QR code to the consumer’s smart phone and instructs the consumer
to scan the code at the bill pay kiosk. The scammer will tell the consumer the QR
code is a “link” to the consumer’s utility account sent to the consumer to help
ensure the consumer’s payment goes directly toward the consumer’s unpaid
balance. However, in reality, the QR code is linked directly to the scammer’s
account. Once the consumer puts the cash into the bill pay kiosk and scans the
QR code, the consumer has unknowingly made a payment to the scammer, not to the
Typically, utility companies
send at least two past due notices in writing before disconnecting or
terminating service, and consumers should be suspicious if they receive a
threatening phone call, suspicious text message or in-person visit with no
prior written notice. If you receive a phone call, text message or in-person
visit without having received written notice, call your utility company
directly using the number on your bill to discuss the status of your
Ask for details about your
account to verify whether the caller is legitimate. If the caller is unable or
unwilling to provide details such as dates and amounts of prior invoices and
payments, hang up and call the utility company directly.
Remember, individuals of all
ages and walks of life are susceptible to scams. Whether you are a college
student or senior, do not hesitate to ask your family and friends about a
suspicious text message or phone call you received from a potential scammer.
Bring in people that you trust.
The Office of the Nevada
Attorney General suggests the following additional tips to avoid utility
- If you are being
pressured to make an immediate payment, remain calm and ask questions to
confirm your account status before making a payment;
- Don't agree to
make payments by wire transfer or with a prepaid card over the telephone.
A legitimate utility representative will explain to a customer how a
payment can be made using the utility's established payment options, and
will not demand payment over the phone; and
- Don't feel
pressured by an upcoming weekend or holiday. According to the Nevada
Public Utilities Commission website, a utility
company may not disconnect or terminate service the day before a weekend,
on the weekend or on a State holiday, unless a safety issue requires
These tips also apply if a
utility company representative comes to your home to demand payment for a past
due account. In this situation, ask to view an identification badge with the
representative's full name, and then call the utility company directly to
discuss the status of your account.
If you believe you have been a
victim of a scam, you may file a complaint with the Office of the Nevada
Attorney General here or with the Federal Trade Commission here.
The Office of the
Nevada Attorney General encourages Nevadans to protect their health and
personal and financial information. For additional helpful information
regarding the status of COVID-19 in Nevada, visit the Nevada Department of
Health and Human Services website here.