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The Journal Gazette

Friday, February 17, 2017 12:11 pm

Verbatim: I&M warns about phone payment scam

The Journal Gazette

Indiana Michigan Power Co. issued this news release today:

FORT WAYNE, Ind. – Indiana Michigan Power (I&M), an operating unit of American Electric Power, is warning customers of scam artists posing as I&M personnel and threatening to disconnect service unless an immediate payment is made.

While utility scams have been an ongoing issue, this week I&M has seen an uptick in scam reports from customers. I&M customers are receiving phone calls and the number showing up on the caller ID is I&M’s customer service phone number (1-800-311-4634).

Customers are told they are behind on their electric bill and are facing immediate disconnection. They are instructed to purchase a debit card, load the card with money, and then call an 800 number and provide the number from the card.

I&M customers who receive such calls should hang up immediately and contact their local police department and then I&M’s Customer Operations Center at 800-311-4634 to report the scam.

Any customer whose electric bill is past due will receive a written notice of a possible disconnection and how to prevent it. I&M will not demand immediate payment over the phone.

While the specific scam being reported this week involves stealing money by phone, customers should always be on guard and on the lookout for falsified mail and email as well.

What are the scammers doing?

* Threatening to shut off power unless an immediate payment is made;

* Instructing customers to go to a certain store and purchase a prepaid card then call for further instructions;

* Telling customers they need a new electric meter but must make a payment before the new meter is installed;

* Offering a discount on their I&M bill if they sign up for auto-pay;

* Negotiating total bill amounts if an immediate payment is made;

* Demanding a deposit be paid immediately.

How can I&M customers protect themselves?

Know I&M will never:

* Disconnect service without prior warning;

* Accept payments in person or call and ask for credit/debit card information over the phone;

* Insist a payment be made with a prepaid credit card;

* Ask a customer to meet us in a parking lot, at a store or other location to make a payment.

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