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Identity thieves could be living large – watching HBO, running the AC nonstop and taking long showers – all on your penny. Find out about utility scams and ways to safeguard yourself in this Q&A with Brett Montgomery, a scams operations manager at IDentity Theft 911 ′ s Resolution Center.

What’s energy fraud and how does it influence consumers?

Utility scams comes in several flavors. The most common involves the opening of a deceptive account– for cable, electrical power, water or gas– in a consumer’s name without their understanding. One reason this kind of scams is so usual is that it’s so simple. Extremely little information is should open an utility account– a name, contact number, and service address are usually enough, and in any case, the service address belongs to the criminal. It’s really much too simple.

Another reason utility scams is so prevalent is that it takes a long period of time to find. In many cases, there’s no way for the victim to know that an account has actually been opened in his or her name. The illegal account typically is opened with an additional company in an additional city or state– and even after an account goes to collections for nonpayment, it can be months or years prior to a collection agency can track down the expected account owner. By that time, the crook is long gone.

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What can customers do to protect themselves against utility scams?

This is a difficult concern since the crime itself is so simple to commit. In general, we give the exact same recommendations for utility scams as for various other forms of account scams: Do not expose your personal details, and enjoy your accounts and credit reports for anything suspicious. Shredding costs and other papers prior to you dispose of them is specifically essential. A great deal of the info utilized in utility fraud is merely pulled from the sufferer’s garbage.

But the fact is that while you can take measures to shield yourself, this crime can not be prevented. We’ve had cases where customers who regularly check their credit reports still had no concept that accounts had actually been opened and services rendered in their name. Why? Since the accounts are not stated until they reach collections– as well as then, they’ve to discover the consumer prior to they can state it.

Because so little details is required to open the account in the first place, connecting those dots can take a lengthy time. To make conditions worse, the criminals are using their own address as the service address, so collection notices go to the criminal, not the consumer. The result is that the victim continues to be in the dark.

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What’re the different types of utility scams?

Cable accounts are actually the No. 1 type of utility scams we see, followed by the opening of deceptive home electricity and gas accounts. We see fraudulent accounts being opened with all the major cable television providers– Meal, Comcast, DirectTV– and at this point, they know us well.

These cases can be tricky for consumers to deal with, because you really need to know the procedure. It can be tough for a consumer even to obtain to the right department. Dealing with the documentation and other requirements for getting the illegal account eliminated can be complicated and taxing for the typical consumer.

One truth worth noting is that energy scams hits about 15 percent of elderly people.

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How are these cases resolved?

Trying to clear it up is tough. A customer basically requires about two times as much information to clear their name as they’d have to open an account in the first location. To do that, there are 3 files that are important from the perspective of the utility business:

  • A authorities report to reveal that the crime has been stated.
  • A sworn affidavit from the sufferer vouching for the truths in the case.
  • Proof of a current energy service with the dates of service.

Beyond that, the more documents, the better. We advise when notifying the energy business that you ask, “What do you require?”

Most energy companies are satisfied to have the consumer complete the conventional affidavit offered by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). But some energies require that the consumer utilize their own kind for the affidavit.

Are there other utility-related frauds that people should find out about?

The AARP has a strong listing of energy frauds that’s worth checking out. One usual scam uses spoofing software application to control the details that appears through Caller ID to make it look like the call is originating from an utility company. When you address, the caller tells you that your account is overdue, then provides to have you care for it right then and there– all you need to do is give them your credit or debit card details. Unnecessary to state, if your costs actually was unsettled, it’ll remain that method.

This post was composed by Kelly Santos on Credit.com.