Each year, summer scams increase as scammers take advantage of the season of increased energy usage. Nueces Electric Cooperative (NEC) has received numerous reports of members receiving phone calls from scammers impersonating NEC employees and demanding payment for past due electric bills. NEC will never threaten to shut off your electricity unless immediate payment is made.
"Recently, a member received a phone call from someone who said they were a NEC employee. The caller identified themselves as a Carlos or Jason and told the NEC member that their account was past due. The scammers requested that the NEC member purchase a pre-paid credit card to pay their past-due electric bill or NEC would send a truck to shut off their power" explained Rhonda Bell, NEC Member Care Manager. "The phone number also appeared to be the official NEC contact number.”
Scammers may use sophisticated technology to make their phone number appear as NEC’s or another companies’. They can even make their phone number appear as a friend’s or loved one’s. As scams continue to evolve, it’s more important than ever to know the signs and protect yourself.
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 co-op if you have contacted the co-op directly to make a payment. Chances are, anyone contacting members asking for payment is not employed or authorized by the co-op.
"We want NEC members to know about this possible scam as soon as possible," adds Bell, "Play it safe and always contact the company directly. Never give anyone who contacts you your credit card or bank account information."
Prepaid debit cards are becoming an increasingly popular method of payment for scammers. Scammers may encourage you to visit a nearby Walmart, CVS, or Dollar Store to purchase these cards. 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.
What are the signs?
If you receive a suspicious call, hang up immediately - we never call or disconnect power outside of regular business hours.
Be aware that scammers may provide you with false information, including verification numbers, greetings, messages and account status. Always call our office at 361-387-2581 to verify any suspicious information.
We never send anyone to your home to demand payment. Never allow someone claiming to represent NEC into your home to collect payment.
All NEC employees will be in an official NEC company uniform. You have the right to ask NEC employees for proper identification.
How does NEC handle payments?
If your account is past due, you will receive an IVR callout in the event of account issues. You may also receive a disconnect notice with instructions on how to avoid disconnection of service.
We will never demand payment over the phone, at a certain location, or by a pre-paid card. If we have an established credit card on file, we will verify with the last four digits of the account holder’s social security number.
You can pay in person at one of our Customer Service centers located in Calallen, Ben Bolt, or Ricardo.
We also have our payment kiosk, dropbox, and drive-through services located in Calallen, as well as online through Smart Hub or by phone.
This type of scam continues to make its 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.