CenterPoint Energy warns customers of new scam


Fake utility providers used to use wire transfers to rip you off, but experts tell us they have a new way to take your money: pre-paid debit cards.

It's a scam that targets anyone who wants to keep the lights on and the A/C running. The phone rings, and the person on the other end says your electricity is about to be cut off.

"It's scammers posing as electric utility workers, asking customers to load money onto a prepaid debit card and pay on an electric bill that is supposedly overdue," CenterPoint Energy Spokesman Olivia Ross said.

The imposter says he is with your electric provider, gives a deadline by which you need to pay up, and tells you to buy a Green Dot pre-paid card or other pre-paid card and give him the serial number. Then he cashes in.

"The crooks can actually take the money that's loaded on the card," Ross said.

It's happened in 12 states and the District of Columbia already. CenterPoint wants to be sure you know that your retail provider is the one that collects payment for electricity, not CenterPoint.

"If someone does call about an electric bill that's overdue, that wouldn't be CenterPoint Energy," Ross said.

CenterPoint does collect natural gas bills, but a phone agent will never ask for your banking or credit card information directly.

"The phone agent would transfer you to an interactive voice response system that would then take your payment information," Ross said.

If you are suspicious about the identity of a caller claiming to be from CenterPoint, you should contact the provider directly.

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