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Utility scams on the rise

UNDATED (WSAU-Wheeler News)   Wisconsin utility scams are on the rise, and they’re getting more sophisticated. We Energies of Milwaukee received over 500 reports of scams in the last year and a half. About 10-percent of those people were victimized.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel says more people are being told that their power will be cut off, or their house will explode, if they don’t buy a new meter. Some get calls from an official-sounding scammer called the “Wisconsin Energy Disconnection Department” to say they’re behind on their bills. In most cases, people are told to go buy prepaid debit cards and call in the numbers. The scammers then walk away with the entire amounts on the debit cards. At least one victim lost over a-thousand dollars.

Madison Police have had about 50 utility scams since March. Many calls go to restaurants and other businesses, in the hopes of catching somebody off guard at their busiest times.

In Beloit, the downtown business group sent an alert to its members, after some were told that Alliant Energy would install new meters – and the utility would need deposits or the old meters would shut down. Kerry Spees of the Wisconsin Public Service utility in Green Bay says most people quote, “smell a rat” and call their utility when they think they’re getting scammed. In reality, utilities own their meters and never charge customers for them – and those behind on their bills get written disconnection notices.