In response to the recent winter storms that have caused utility outages in the United States, the FTC is warning people to be aware of utility and weather-related scams.

If a scammer knows that electricity has been shut off in an area, they might call and offer you reimbursement for the time you were without power. However, they’ll claim to need your bank account number or other personal information in order to get you the money. Likewise, if your utility is still currently off, a scammer might claim to be able to restore service, but only if you send them money immediately.

If you are contacted by a suspected scammer, the FTC recommends:

  • Never call a number left in a voicemail, text or email. Instead, call the utility company directly using the number on the company’s website or your bill and verify if the message came from them.
  • Never give your banking information over the phone on an unknown number. Only pay your bills over the phone when you initiated the call to a number you know is legitimate.
  • If a caller insists that you pay with a gift card, cash reload card, money transfer, or cryptocurrency, it’s a scam.

Always be aware that scammers are continually looking to exploit any current situation in order to get your money, and bad weather is no exception. To report any scams you see, visit reportfraud.ftc.gov.