Scammers continue to target electric co-op members
A. Berl Davis, Jr. | President & CEO
Posted September 2, 2014
Posing as representatives of Palmetto Electric, criminals have recently attempted to scam co-op members by calling to demand immediate payment of electric bills with reloadable debit cards.
Members are told their bill is past due. The caller claims their service will be cut off if the amount due is not paid immediately with a reloadable debit card.
Your co-op will never ask members to pay bills this way. Any request to pay your bill with reloadable debit cards, or by wiring money, is a scam.
If you receive a request like this, hang up. Report suspicious activity by calling 1 (800) 922-5551.
What we never do
In many scams, criminals attempt to create a sense of urgency: “You need to act fast to prevent this problem!”
We don’t work that way at Palmetto Electric. Here are a few things we never do:
- We don’t disconnect services for nonpayment on weekends.
- We don’t call members to say they need to pay for a meter to be changed.
- We don’t show up unannounced and ask for entry to your home.
What we routinely do
4063 Grays Highway
Ridgeland, SC 29936-0820
1231 Charleston Highway
Hampton, SC 29924
111 Mathews Drive
Hilton Head, SC 29925
1 Cooperative Way
Hardeeville, SC 29927
8 a.m.–5 p.m. Monday–Friday
As Palmetto advised you in this space last year, co-op employees always present ourselves in a professional, courteous manner. For example:
- Our employees always carry a valid ID, and they’ll be glad to show it to you.
- Customer service representatives are available to answer questions and verify account information from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays at the phone numbers and office locations listed at right.
- CSRs also can verify the identity of contractors and employees of third-party companies working with Palmetto Electric.
What you can do
Working with victimized members and law enforcement, including the state’s attorney general in a statewide co-op campaign last year, we have tried our best to hold scammers accountable. The sad fact is, it’s almost impossible. They come from different parts of the country, even different parts of the world. They hide behind technology and untraceable or anonymous phone numbers. They hang up if called back and questioned.
Scammers often change tactics and targets. At first, it seemed they were targeting Hispanic, Spanish-speaking members. Then they targeted the elderly. Before the Fourth of July, they targeted small businesses.
Some business people have been having tough times in this downward economy, which fortunately is turning in the right direction. The scammers called them just before the long holiday weekend, on a Thursday.
People in this situation can get in a little bit of a panic. They think, “I’m going to get my power turned off, and it’s going to be off all weekend. This is a big weekend for me at my business. With all these tourists coming into town, if I get cut off, I can’t survive!”
See? There’s the attempt to create a sense of urgency. Stay calm. Remember:
- If you have any doubts about a suspicious call, hang up immediately.
- When in doubt, call the co-op. We’ll give you up-to-date, valid account information.
The best way to attack the scam problem, we believe, is through member education. It’s up to members to be vigilant. Please spread the word about this problem to fellow members. Together, we can look out for one another. Thank you.