COLORADO SPRINGS — The impacts of the pandemic are still being felt by many of our neighbors in the Pikes Peak Region who are trying to figure out how to pay their utility bills. News5 learns why there are concerns about the people struggling as fraudsters are once again taking advantage.
These impostors will call you on the phone spoofing the phone number for Colorado Springs Utilities. They operate in fear, telling you if you don't pay up your power will be turned off and during the hot days of summer people are taking the bait.
Since the start of the pandemic fraudsters have continued to call Colorado Springs homes urging them to pay up. Colorado Springs Utilities reports it averages about 118 scam reports a month since the start of the pandemic. So far in 2021, customers admit they've paid scammers more than $5,500.
"We will never say pay us now or we will disconnect you. We do everything we can to keep those customers with power on and we will bend over backwards," said Jeff Rowbotham of Colorado Springs Utilities.
Estimates show in Colorado Springs there's roughly 5,600 households behind on utility bills right now and 2,500 of those are at risk for being disconnected. These numbers are higher than normal and it's opening the door for these devastating scams.
"I'd say there's a lot more sensitivity with this volume of customers being behind. There are frankly just more vulnerable customers out there now," said Rowbotham.
Watch out for anyone asking you to pay now with gift cards, cash apps, wire transfers, or cryptocurrency. And remember you don't have to trust anyone who calls you.
"That's why we're grateful that we're doing the story. We try to get the message out as much as possible. One of the biggest messages we say is if you don't feel comfortable hang up don't give them any information call 448-4800 and we will handle it," said Rowbotham.
The FBI has been investigating these utility scams nationwide and says you should be able to detect a common tactic.
"The bad guy right? Puts a sense of urgency. It's a high priority and you've got to do it now," said Assistant Agent In Charge for FBI Detroit James Barnacle Jr..
Colorado Springs Utilities says if you're behind the action you should take now is contacting them so you can work out a plan.
"Whether it's simply a payment plan, you need more time to pay on the past due balance we can do that. We can also offer payment extensions where it's typical (to ask) just give me another two weeks to pay and we can do that," said Rowbotham.
If you're behind on those utility bills there are ways to get back on track.
To help you get started find some of the resources provided by Colorado Springs Utilities at this link: https://www.csu.org/Pages/CustomerAssistance.aspx