Utility customers throughout the Austin area are being targeted by utility scams each day. The scammers claim to work for City of Austin Utilities, Austin Energy, or Austin Water. They typically reach customers by phone call, letter, or email, but may also send text messages, show up in your social media feed, or even visit your home.
Scammers often use valid-looking phone numbers, official-looking letterheads or bills, graphics, uniforms, and other forms of fraudulent identification.
Sometimes, the scammer warns that your utilities will be disconnected if you fail to make an immediate, non-traceable payment. In other cases, they may falsely claim that you have overpaid, and ask for your credit card or bank account number to “refund” the money.
If someone is trying to scare you into immediate payment or convince you of something that sounds too good to be true stop the conversation. Listen to your instincts. Get the facts.
Don’t respond to the suspicious email, voicemail, or text. Visit COA Utilities to check your account status.
How to Spot a Utility Bill Scam
- Threat to disconnect — The scammer aggressively tells you that your account is past due, and service will be disconnected — usually within an hour — if a large payment is not made. They ask you to quickly purchase a gift card or prepaid credit card, or to pay through a third-party payment transfer app, or even cryptocurrency. Making a payment through these methods makes it nearly impossible to trace the scammer or recover the funds.
- Overpayment trick — Alternately, scammers may claim you have overpaid your utility bill. They ask for your personal bank account information or credit card number to “refund” the overpayment. Never give anyone you don’t know any personal or financial information.
How to Protect Yourself
- If you receive a phone call, letter, or email threatening to interrupt service, hang up and dial 3-1-1 to report it.
- Make a note of call details, especially the phone number that appeared on Caller ID and the number the scammer requested that you call back to make payment. Austin Energy works with law enforcement and other partners investigating criminals and assisting in shutting down scams.
- If you are uncertain of your account status, login to City of Austin Utilities or call 512-494-9400 to speak with a representative.
City of Austin Utilities Will NEVER:
- Call residential customers with immediate cut-off deadlines. (Note: Commercial customers may receive a courtesy call two days prior to scheduled cut off for non-payment.)
- Ask for credit card or wire transfer information over the phone.
- Demand immediate payment in person with cash, gift card, Bitcoin, or any non-traceable form of payment.
Don't Fall for the Call
- Get more tips for how to stay safe from utility scams
- View all authorized bill payment options and walk-in locations