SPOKANE, Wash. – Nov. 16, 2016 - Avista is joining with natural gas and electric utility companies across the United States and Canada to protect customers from scams targeting customers of utility service providers.

Today, Nov. 16, is “Utilities United Against Scams Day.” This day is being supported by utilities with information focusing on exposing the tricks scammers use to steal money from customers, and how customers can protect themselves.

The Utilities United Against Scams collaboration encourages the public to share these messages to help guard against scam activity.

A common utility scam attempt is where a customer receives an unsolicited phone call from an individual falsely claiming to be a utility representative. The scammer warns that the utility will disconnect the customer’s electric service if the customer fails to make a payment – usually within a short timeframe.

Red flags for scam activity

• The scammer becomes angry and tells the customer his or her account is past due and service will be disconnected if a large payment isn’t made – usually within an hour.

• The scammer instructs the customer to purchase a pre-paid debit or credit card – widely available at retail stores – then call him or her back to supposedly make a utility payment.

• The scammer asks the customer for the prepaid card’s receipt number and PIN number, which grants instant access to the card’s funds.

How to protect yourself

• Avista never asks or requires a customer with a delinquent account to purchase a prepaid debit card to avoid disconnection.

• Customers with a past due account receive an advance disconnection notification with the regular monthly billing – never a single notification one hour before disconnection.

• If you suspect someone is trying to scam you, hang up and call the local police then Avista. Never return a call to the phone number the scammers provide.

• Customers who suspect or experience fraud, or feel threatened during call should contact local authorities, and then call Avista’s customer service at (800) 227-9187. The number is listed on Avista’ monthly bill.

• Some scammers have duplicated Avista’s automated phone greeting, so when customers return a call to the phone number provided by the scammer, it sounds like a legitimate Avista phone number. Some of these criminals also use caller ID spoofing to replicate Avista’s customer service number.

• Customers can call Avista at (800) 227-9187 to verify if the phone call was actually from Avista.

About Avista Utilities

Avista Utilities is involved in the production, transmission and distribution of energy. We provide energy services and electricity to 375,000 customers and natural gas to 336,000 customers in a service territory that covers 30,000 square miles in eastern Washington, northern Idaho and parts of southern and eastern Oregon, with a population of 1.6 million. Avista Utilities is an operating division of Avista Corp. (NYSE: AVA). For more information, please visit www.avistautilities.com.

The Avista logo is a trademark of Avista Corporation.

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