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The guy at the door says he’s from the utility: Are you sure?

For more than 30 years CUB has battled Illinois utility companies to protect customers from exorbitant rate hikes–but we’ll stand with the utilities any day if it helps consumers avoid getting scammed.

That’s why today CUB spoke at a news conference with ComEd, Peoples/North Shore Gas and Nicor Gas to warn consumers about the utility imposter scam. (Illinois Commerce Commission Executive Director Cholly Smith also was there, adding his voice to the fight against scammers.)

CUB has seen reports of this scam from across the state, but it’s a national problem highlighted recently by Nightline. which called it a “suburban crime wave” that can bilk people of hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars. Here’s how it works:

Con artists posing as utility workers call or visit consumers’ homes and demand quick payment to avoid a service shutoff. They instruct victims to purchase a prepaid credit card and to call them back with the card’s personal identification number (PIN).  (In the door-to-door version, the scammer may try to gain access to a person’s home or at least get the homeowner to reveal personal or account information.)

These scams are despicable for a couple reasons:

No. 1 They take advantage of our fear of losing a service we can’t do without.

No. 2. They slander the reputation of the honest, hard-working, front-line utility employees who keep our service running on a daily basis.

Follow these tips to protect yourself:

*Never give out financial or account information to anyone who calls you or knocks on your door claiming to be from your utility. (And never make a payment at your door.)

*Don’t be afraid to ask for an ID. Utility employees are required to carry a company photo ID.

*Call your utility. It can verify if an employee has called or been dispatched to your home, and can tell you your account status.

ComEd 1-800-EDISON1

Nicor Gas 1-888-NICOR4U

Peoples Gas 1-866-556-6001

North Shore Gas 1-866-556-6004