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Homeowners Beware: Scammers Posing As Utility Workers

Imagine someone comes to your house claiming to be from the water or gas company. He says he's come to do some work in the area, but you weren’t expecting him. What if he isn’t who he says he is, and how can you tell?

Utility imposters are a growing problem in the state, especially during the summer months, according to the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission. In response, the PUC has joined with the Keystone Alliance to Stop Utility Imposters, which is comprised of six utility companies across the state to develop a media campaign to educate homeowners on how to avoid being scammed by false utility workers.

The campaign launched Monday as part of an awareness week incorporating television and radio broadcasts and posters distributed statewide. Before this campaign, utility companies would take their own steps to alert customers.

“The goal of the campaign is really to educate and be preemptive with education towards utility consumers so that we stop the imposter scam artists who come often at this time of year, door-to-door, and try to break in for robbery purposes,” PUC commissioner Pam Witmer said.

In the past, imposters have posed as utility workers claiming to be on a job, tricking people into letting them into their homes. Imposters often distract the homeowner by asking them to go to a different floor or having another scammer talk with them while the other robs the house. Senior citizens are often at risk for these incidents, PUC officials said.

The campaign encourages people to carefully examine the utility worker that comes to their house.

“Make sure that you are looking at them, that they have a company-issued uniform that they will be wearing, they have company-issued logos on their cars, but most importantly, they have a company-issued photo identification,” Witmer said.

Utility companies are also emphasizing to their employees the importance of connecting with customers and explaining their presence at the house to make sure that homeowners are safe and to show the utility workers themselves are trustworthy.

“These steps hopefully will be something that are easy to remember,” said Witmer. “Check photo identification, and follow your instincts, and call the utility. And if you are not comfortable with that, never hesitate to call 911.”