TECO warns of billing scam

Tampa Electric issued a warning to customers Friday that scam artists are targeting them in a prepaid debit card scheme.

In the past few weeks, the utility has received about a dozen complaints from customers that someone impersonating a Tampa Electric representative has called them.

The caller claims the customer's account is past due and requires a prepaid debit card for payment. The caller then requests the customer buy a prepaid debit card from a local store and call back with the card's number to avoid disconnection.

In at least two cases, customers fell for the scheme. The scam artist appears to be targeting Hispanic residents and seniors, the utility said.

Tampa Electric, a subsidiary of TECO Energy, never calls to ask for credit card or debit card numbers. If you are uncertain about an individual's association with Tampa Electric, please contact the company for verification at (813) 223-0800 in Hillsborough County; (863) 299-0800 in Polk County and toll-free at 1-888-223-0800 in all other areas.

The Tampa Electric scheme is one of a growing number of scams that have emerged with the sluggish economy.

Here are some tips from the Federal Trade Commission to help avoid becoming a victim of fraud:

• Don't respond to messages that ask for your personal or financial information, whether the message comes as an email, a phone call, a text message, or an ad.

• Don't agree to deposit a check from someone you don't know and then wire money back, no matter how convincing the story.

• If you get an email or popup message that asks for personal or financial information, do not reply.

• Don't email personal or financial information.

• Review credit card and bank account statements as soon as you receive them to check for unauthorized charges.

• Know where an offer comes from and who you're dealing with.

TECO warns of billing scam 09/07/12 [Last modified: Saturday, September 8, 2012 5:31pm]

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