News Briefs

Slam the door on scammers by being a cautious consumer

    Don’t be tricked into paying a bill you don’t owe. Phony debt collection attempts rank among the most…

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Slam the door on scammers by being a cautious consumer

    Don’t be tricked into paying a bill you don’t owe. Phony debt collection attempts rank among the most common scams targeting consumers, according to the Better Business Bureau.
    The “power cut-off” scam goes something like this: A consumer receives a phone call from someone claiming to represent the electric utility in collecting a past-due power bill. The consumer is told that to avoid a service disconnection, he must give the caller a credit card number, prepaid debit card number or other form of payment.
    Please don’t fall for this con. Your electric power association will never demand immediate payment of a bill over the phone. If you receive such a call, don’t be pressured to act. Hang up, and call your electric power association to get the true status of your account.
    In another scam, the caller claims to be an IRS agent and threatens to fine or arrest the consumer for failing to pay a non-existent tax debt. This kind of fraud accounts for 25 percent of all scams reported by victims to the BBB.
    Another common scam has to do with phony sweepstakes or prize winnings. The prize isn’t real but the caller’s attempt to get upfront payment of taxes or other fees from you is very real.
    In the “government grant” scam, the caller asks the victim for checking account or credit card information, or an upfront payment of fees in order to qualify for the “free” grant money.
    Regardless of the scenario, the goal of all these scams is to steal your money, or obtain your personal information for the purposes of identity theft. All of them have targeted consumers in Mississippi. (Not everyone took the bait; many Mississippians recognized a scam and reported it to the BBB.)
    You can learn about and report scams to the BBB through the BBB Scam Tracker, a free interactive online tool at By clicking on a map, you can read about scams being reported in specific areas of the country, as well as your own area. You can also subscribe to the BBB’s scam alerts.
    And remember, an offer that sounds to good to be true usually is. Just hang up the phone or ignore the email solicitation.
    Mississippi’s new year was ushered in with heavy rains, high winds, a few tornadoes, sleet, ice and temperatures dipping into the teens in some areas.
    Bad weather is the most common cause of power outages. Tens of thousands of electric power association members in south Mississippi lost their service during tornadoes and high winds that swept the state on Jan. 2, and our crews quickly scrambled to rebuild power lines.
    This is a good time to remind everyone of the dangers of fallen power lines. Contact with a line on the ground can cause a deadly shock—even during a power outage. There is no way to tell if a downed line is energized simply by looking at it, so please, just stay away and report the situation immediately to your electric power association.
    One more safety-related plea: Our crews often work on lines after dark, in the fog and during downpours. They use various safety devices and procedures to help drivers spot them, but they still need your help to stay safe. Please slow down when you approach a utility work site on a roadside. On multi-lane highways, remember the “Move Over Law”: Move over at least one lane away from any utility or emergency vehicle with lights flashing. If you can’t change lanes due to traffic, slow down and be prepared to stop.
    Nothing is more important to us than the safety of our members, employees and the public.

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