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Media > Newsletters > Consumer Advocate > October 2020 > Watch Out for Energy Scams and Learn Where to Get Assistance

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Watch Out for Energy Scams and Learn Where to Get Assistance

Energy scams occur when scammers pose as utility company representatives and threaten to discontinue service to the customer unless the consumer provides personal information or immediate payment for utility service.

As COVID-19 related protections from utility disconnections begin to lift, many consumers who are economically insecure may be feeling increased pressure to make any form of payment in order to retain electric, water and gas service to their home. Scammers will increasingly try to take advantage of this insecurity to pressure consumers to pay.

If you get a call from someone claiming to be your utility company, here are some things to keep in mind:
  • If you are on the phone with the caller, hang up and then call your energy company using contact information on your bill or the company’s website. 
  • Even if the representative is threatening to discontinue services immediately, never give banking information over the phone to someone who has contacted you unexpectedly.
  • If the caller demands payment by gift card, cash reload card, wiring money or cryptocurrency, it is likely a scam.
  • If the caller says you are entitled to a “rebate” from your energy company, hang up and then call your local utility or your current supplier using contact information on your bill or the company’s website. The caller may be trying to get you to switch to a third-party supplier.
  • Be especially careful not to provide your account number unless you know for certain you are speaking to your local utility or that you are speaking to a third-party energy supplier and have chosen to switch. Always do your homework and compare offers if you want to participate in an energy choice program.
If you have become a victim of a scam or may have difficulty paying utility bills this fall or winter, here are some resources and programs that may be able to assisting you in the payment of your utility bills:
  • Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) – HEAP helps lower income residents pay their cooling and heating bills. There is also an Emergency HEAP program that provides assistance to households that have had their utilities disconnected, those that have a 10-day supply (or less) of bulk fuel or face disconnection. The Energy Assistance Program also has a recurring monthly component, which can assist with paying ongoing monthly utility bills by offering cash grants to low income customers. 
  • Percentage of Income Payment Plan (PIPP) – PIPP is an extended payment plan offered to qualified Ohio residents that requires regulated electric and gas companies to take payments for bills based on a percentage of household income. Low-income customers and others facing a financial hardship who heat their homes with natural gas pay as little as 5 percent of their monthly income to their gas company and as little as 3 percent to their electric company for heating and utility bills.
  • Ohio Energy Credit (OEC) Program – Residents who are 65 years of age or older OR if they are totally and permanently disabled, will receive an increased Energy Assistance benefit beyond what they would receive under the standard HEAP utility bill grant.
  • Local Programs – Contact your Area Agency on Aging, (866)243-5678, to see if there are local programs available to you.
  • Winter Crisis Program – Also known as E-HEAP or Emergency HEAP, this provision of the Home Energy Assistance Program provides consumers with up to $175 if they have been disconnected or face disconnection in order to have their service restored or maintained. The Winter Crisis Program follows the same income guidelines as the regular HEAP program.
  • Local Utilities – Contact your local utility as soon as you suspect payment of your bill may be an issue. The utilities may offer company-specific assistance programs.
For more information about utility regulations, consumer rights and energy choice programs visit the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio and the Office of the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel.

If you suspect a scam or an unfair business practice, contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at or 800-282-0515.