Des Moines, Iowa – MidAmerican Energy customers this past week reported a higher-than-average number of utility scam incidents that collectively resulted in several thousand dollars in losses.
With extreme cold that’s forecast for the area, MidAmerican officials tell us they are concerned the number of victims may increase further as scammers take advantage of customers who fear losing electric service just as temperatures plummet.
Mike Gehringer, vice president of customer operations for MidAmerican says, “Scammers can use the threat of dangerous cold to truly scare their victims into thinking they’ll lose their heat and convince them to pay to supposedly avoid an instant shutoff. Lately, we’ve seen a jump in utility scam victimization, and the best way to stop this in its tracks is to warn customers so they don’t become the next victim.”
MidAmerican officials say the “utility imposter scam” is the most common utility scam. It begins with a phone call from someone who claims they’re with MidAmerican, that for some reason the company did not receive payment, and they threaten to shut off utility service unless the customer agrees to their demand to pay immediately by phone. Scammers often seek payment through reloadable money cards, digital payment apps, money wire transfers, or even gift cards, such as Amazon or iTunes cards. Beyond seeking card numbers, some scammers also seek their victims’ bank account numbers and withdraw money directly.
Gehringer says MidAmerican tries very hard to protect their customers from criminals who use their company’s name to help them steal money. He says it’s important to know that if you really are behind on payments, MidAmerican will provide several notifications and try to work through it with you. He says they won’t just call out of the blue making immediate disconnection threats, as shut-offs are a last resort that MidAmerican wants to avoid.
In our area, MidAmerican provides both gas and electric service in Sheldon, Archer, Germantown, Calumet, Sutherland, Granville, Newkirk, Hospers, Boyden, Hull, Rock Valley, Doon, Alvord, and Inwood. They also provide electric service only in a number of smaller communities.
MidAmerican offers these steps to protect yourself from utility imposter scams:
- If you are a MidAmerican customer who is past due, your bill will show the amount. Customers may also receive a letter or disconnect notice. In cases of potential disconnections due to nonpayment, MidAmerican will always send a disconnection notice and will attempt to call prior to a disconnection. In some cases, MidAmerican will also leave a final notification at the customer’s door.
- MidAmerican accepts many forms of payment but does not demand a specific payment method by phone. MidAmerican will never ask for payment via a gift card.
- If you suspect anything is unusual about a phone call from someone who identifies themselves as a MidAmerican employee, hang up the phone. Do not call the number that appears on caller ID or that the caller provides – even if it seems legitimate. Call the MidAmerican number that appears on your monthly bill or on the company website at MidAmericanEnergy.com. That number is 888-427-5632.
- Unless you are certain you are speaking with a MidAmerican employee, do not provide personal or financial information. If unsure, hang up and call MidAmerican.
- If you have any questions about the status of your account, including payment status, call MidAmerican. If you are enrolled in MyAccount, you can check your account status online at any time.
- If you think you’ve been scammed, report it to your local law enforcement agency and you can also report it to MidAmerican online or by phone.