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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — With this week being the 20th anniversary of National Consumer Protection Week, Piedmont Natural Gas is again taking the opportunity to educate its customers and communities on how to avoid being victims of utility scammers.

“Given the many ways people can fall victims to scams, this is a message that simply can’t be shared too often,” said Jared Lawrence, vice president of meter services and Piedmont Natural Gas customer operations, and executive chairman of Utilities United Against Scams (UUAS). “Scammers are becoming more sophisticated with each passing year, so consumers must continue learning new ways to protect themselves.”

UUAS has made available a Consumer’s Guide to Imposter Utility Scams, which provides descriptions of the many scams that target utility customers and tools they can use to protect themselves. This guide can be found on the coalition’s new website, utilitiesunited.org.

Common scam tactics

*Service disconnection threats: Customers may receive threats to turn off service – usually in less than an hour – if a large payment is not made.

*Immediate payment requests: Customers are asked to quickly purchase a prepaid debit card and provide the card information, which grants the scammer instant access to personal funds. Some scammers may also request a money wire.

*Calls that appear to be from your utility: Scammers may rig caller ID to make it look like the call is from a service provider.

How to protect yourself

*We encourage customers who suspect a scam to hang up and call their utility directly, followed by a call to the police. Never dial the phone number the scammers provide.

*Do not pay over the phone if immediate payment is demanded to avoid disconnection.

*Piedmont never asks or requires a customer with a delinquent account to purchase a prepaid debit card to avoid disconnection. Customers can make payments online or by phone, automatic bank draft or mail.

For more information on how to spot a utility scam and protect personal information, visit utilitiesunited.org.

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