Phone scam targets Utah solar consumers


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State officials are warning consumers to beware of a telemarketing scam aimed at defrauding would-be solar energy users.

The Utah Public Service Commission on Tuesday said it has received reports of a telemarketing scheme in which callers pretend to be from a state government agency.

The reports indicate that residents have been contacted by the Utah Public Utilities Commission with a solar energy sales pitch in which consumers are told there is a deadline set by the government requiring immediate action to receive special pricing on solar panels.

But no such agency exists, state officials said.

“The Utah Public Service Commission does not make telemarketing calls to the public and does not authorize anyone to do so on its behalf,” said Commission Chairman Thad LeVar. “Anyone who claims otherwise is simply lying.”

Imposter scams are not new, explained Francine Giani, executive director of the Utah Department of Commerce.

The public should know that such scams use common elements like “government sounding names” to lure unwitting victims into believing the scheme is legitimate, Giani noted. Recent phone calls have used the IRS and other government entities to snare victims, she added.

“Imposter scams prey on your trusting nature with convincing names and language to confuse you into thinking it’s the real deal,” Giani said. “Hang up the phone and call the real agency to verify before acting first.”

Tips for avoiding imposter scams

• Don’t wire money: Scammers often pressure people into wiring money or strongly suggest that people put money on a prepaid debit card and send it to them. Con artists recommend these services so they can get your money before you realize you’ve been cheated.

• Don’t pay for a prize: If you enter and win a legitimate sweepstakes, you don’t have to pay insurance, taxes or shipping charges to collect your prize. If you have to pay, it’s not a prize. And if you didn’t enter a sweepstakes or lottery, then you couldn’t have won.

• Don’t give the caller your financial or other personal information: Never give out or confirm financial or other sensitive information, including your bank account, credit card or Social Security number, unless you know whom you’re dealing with.

• Don’t trust a name or number: Con artists use official-sounding names to make you trust them. No legitimate government official will ask you to send money to collect a prize, and they won’t call to collect your debt.

• Put your number on the National Do Not Call Registry: While it won’t completely stop scammers from calling, putting your number on the list helps screen calls for legitimacy and reduces the number of telemarketing calls received.

• Report the Scam to the Federal Trade Commission: If you get a call from a government imposter, file a complaint at ftc.gov/complaint.

For more information or to file a local complaint, contact the Utah Division of Consumer Protection.

SOURCE: Utah Department of Commerce

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