Reports of possible scams targeting IREA customers have become less frequent, but the criminals behind them are using increasingly sophisticated methods.
IREA wants you to be aware of these different types of scams and know how to avoid them. Even if you suspect a possible scam that isn’t similar to those detailed below, we urge you to call us directly at (800) 332-9540.
Pre-paid card phone scam
This scam targets small commercial businesses and some residential customers. The scheme works like this: Customers receive a call, sometimes from an out-of-state area code, telling them their electric service is scheduled for immediate disconnection and they need to make a payment by purchasing a “Green Dot” Visa or other pre-paid card at a local convenience store. After the customer purchases the card, they are told to call back and provide the card number. Once that information is obtained, the monetary value is withdrawn by those behind the scam.
In a variation of this scam, customers are sent automated messages telling them to call IREA at a number that does not belong to IREA. When the customer calls the number, they are instructed by a person acting as if they are an IREA employee to procure a pre-paid card for immediate payment. Use caution. When calling these numbers, there sometimes are elaborate voicemail systems that even sound like IREA’s automated answering system. When in doubt, call IREA directly at (800) 332-9540.
Legitimate IREA calls will not come from phone numbers with out-of-state area codes. IREA employees do not call customers to demand immediate payment; our disconnect notification calls are automated and instruct customers to contact IREA directly to make payment. IREA also does not ever request payment by pre-paid card; a request for payment using this method is a scam.
Other phone scams
Scammers have been known to call customers and tell them a refund is owed due to overpayment. They then request info for a bank account or credit card to which they can refund the overpaid amount. It is not IREA policy to issue refunds to bank accounts or credit cards. We instead either credit your account or print and mail you a check.
Scammers also have turned to short message service (SMS) – more commonly known as texting – to target utility customers. Consumers tend to be more trusting of text messages than phone calls, and criminals take advantage of this by sending requests for personal and financial information. IREA sends text messages only to customers who have opted in for specific SMS services such as outage alerts. As with any other suspicious activity, immediately call us at (800) 332-9540 if you receive an unexpected text message from a source claiming to represent IREA.
Federal assistance scam
This scam features a phony nationwide program that promises to credit or pay utility bills in exchange for personal information, including Social Security numbers. The scam, which has been reported in a number of states, claims that the president is providing credits or applying payments to utility bills. These scam messages are delivered through text message, social media and email.
Online bill-pay scam
Another scam involves emails containing mock links to online bills and asks for additional information before collecting payment. If you receive your bills via email, compare your latest emails, verify the sending email address matches that of previous eBills, and beware of links that redirect you to other websites. Remember: You can safely view your bills online by logging directly into My Account.
Criminals running this scam typically share utility employment opportunities on job-search and other websites. These spoof listings are sometimes copied verbatim from actual job listings, but often direct applicants to divulge personal info to parties not affiliated with the utility. Anyone interested in employment opportunities at IREA should visit the Careers section of our website, www.IREA.coop/careers, where job listings and the formal application process can be found.
This scam involves someone showing up at a residence pretending to be an IREA employee on a service call. IREA employees visiting a residence on a service call will always carry ID badges, wear uniforms identifying them clearly as IREA employees and be driving our signature yellow work trucks with the IREA logo. Contractors working on IREA’s behalf will also carry identification, as well as credentials from IREA identifying them as a contractor working for IREA. If you doubt the identification of the person at your door, do not allow them into your home or on your property. Contact IREA immediately at (800) 332-9540 to verify whether the person is an IREA employee or contractor on a legitimate service call. Always ask to see a valid ID. In most instances, scammers will quickly depart if you inform them you are calling to confirm their identity.
IREA is part of several industry-wide efforts to prevent scams, including Utilities United Against Scams, which offers resources for both utilities and their customers via www.UtilitiesUnited.org. IREA customers can also look to our social media channels – @IREAColorado on Twitter and IntermountainREA on Facebook – for info on potential scams.