Wisconsin businesses are being warned to watch out for the latest version of a scam targeting utility customers. Several businesses in the state have reported receiving phone calls telling them their utility services will be shut off right away, unless they send in money to cover an unpaid bill. The caller then asks for payment through a wire transfer or pre-paid debit card.
Those payment methods are a favorite for criminals, says state Division of Trade and Consumer Protection Administrator Sandy Chalmers. She says anyone asking for payment through a direct transfer of funds should be a “red flag” for businesses and consumers.
Chalmers says utility companies would never threaten a customer like that, or demand that you send money using one of those methods. Any business receiving such a call is urged to hang up, and then contact their utility provider directly to determine the balance of their account.
Similar scams have popped up in Wisconsin before, but typically targeted residential customers in the past. Chalmers says the scam appears to be evolving though and businesses should be wary of any calls they receive.
Cases have been reported statewide, although several small businesses in the Madison suburb of Fitchburg have been heavily targeted. Madison Gas and Electric says some of its customers did fall for the scam, and only found out after they had called the utility to confirm if their payment had been received.