State consumers being targeted with email-based utility scams

By Dwayne Butler - Special to The Freeman

January 18, 2014

MADISON The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection says it has received a number of complaints and inquiries in January about two different utility scams targeting Wisconsin consumers by email.

According to the DATCP, the emails in these nationwide scams fraudulently claim to come from one of two legitimate energy providers: Texas-based Atmos Energy or Californiabased Pacific Gas & Electric Company. Both emails tell consumers that they have a past due utility bill.

The emails reference fake account numbers and direct consumers to visit linked websites to view their statements or to make a payment. By clicking on any links in the messages, consumers risk having their systems infected with malware and the loss of personal or banking information to the scammers.

Both Atmos Energy and PG&E have warnings about these scams on their respective websites. Neither company provides services to Wisconsin residences.

The DATCP suggests doing the following if anyone receives an email regarding a past due utility bill from either Atmos Energy or PG&E: Delete the email immediately Do not click any links contained in the message Do not download any attachments from the email Do not provide any personal or banking information or reply to the message.

If anyone has received a fraudulent PG&E email, consumers can report the contact information to PG&E at CorporateSecurity@pge.com.|

For more information or to file a consumer complaint with the DATCP, visit datcp.wisconsin.gov, send an email to datcphotline@wisconsin.gov or call the hotline toll-free at 800-422-7128.