Beware – energy bill scams on the rise
SCAMwatch is warning consumers to be on the lookout for energy billing scams currently doing the rounds.
A new phishing email pretending to be from reputable energy companies is currently circulating, which claims you owe money for an outstanding gas or electricity bill. The email will ask you to click on a link to view or update your account and arrange payment via money transfer. If you click on the link, you risk infecting your computer with malware and having your personal information stolen. If you pay this ‘bill’ via money transfer, you will never see your money again.
Beware – reports have also been received about scammers approaching consumers via phone, SMS and post.
Don’t let scammers raise the temperature of your heating bill in the lead-up to winter – if you receive an email out of the blue from someone claiming that you owe their company money for an outstanding energy bill, press delete.
How the scam works
- You receive an email out of the blue from someone claiming to be from a reputable energy company, informing you that you owe money for 2013 energy usage.
- The email may appear to come from an official part of the energy company such as the ‘Accounts Payable’, ‘Receivable Department’ or the ‘Accounts Receivable Team’. The email may even have all the trademarks of a bill – it may state that it is a gas or electricity bill, and include a fake account number, account summary, billing period details and due date for payment. However, on closer inspection, the email may contain spelling and grammatical errors – a tell-tale sign that something is amiss.
- The email may claim that the reason for the outstanding amount is that you have exceeded your energy consumption limit. It may even claim that you are eligible to use a discounted energy tariff to pay the bill if you click on the link.
- The email directs you to click on an embedded link, attachment or zip file to access your account and view your statement, and then direct you to a money transfer service with instructions on how to pay the bill.
- If you click the link or attachment, your computer may be infected with malicious software and your identity compromised. If you transfer money, you’ll never see it again.
Note: you don’t have to be a customer of the energy company claiming that you owe them money to receive this email.
- If you receive an email out of the blue from someone claiming that you owe money for outstanding energy usage – just press ‘delete’.
- If you’re not sure whether an email is a scam, verify who they are by using their official contact details to call them directly. Never use contact details provided by the sender – find them through an independent source such as a phone book or online search.
- Watch out for tell-tale signs – whilst the sender may claim to be from an official source, their email may contain spelling mistakes or use poor grammar.
- Never click on links or open attachments in an email from an unverified sender – they may contain a malicious virus.
- Keep your computer secure – always update your firewall, anti-virus and anti-spyware software, and only buy from a verified source. If you think your computer’s security has been compromised, use your security software to run a virus check. If you still have doubts, contact your anti-virus software provider or a computer specialist.
- Never send money to someone you don’t know and trust – it’s rare to recover money from a scammer. If you think you have provided your account details to a scammer, contact your bank or financial institution immediately.
You can report scams to the ACCC via the report a scam page on SCAMwatch.
Stay one step ahead of scammers, follow @SCAMwatch_gov on Twitter or visit http://twitter.com/SCAMwatch_gov.