The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio is warning utility customers of a payment scam that has surfaced across the state over the past few weeks.
The scam is targeting particularly electric and natural gas utility customers, both residential and small business. A caller claiming to represent the utility informs the customer that they owe money from their past bill and must pay immediately or face termination of service. Customers are instructed to purchase a pre-paid debit card and then call a toll free number to transfer the money.
Most utilities do not ask for pre-paid debit cards for payment and provide ample time for customers to make a payment before service is terminated. Customers having questions about their account should call the appropriate utility. A listing of PUCO regulated utility company customer service numbers can be found here.
Customers believing they have been a victim of payment fraud are encouraged to contact their local authorities as well.
Please visit the PUCO website for more information. www.puco.ohio.gov
The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio and the Propane Education & Research Council have posted 5 steps to take to prepare for the coming winter season.
1. Check your current propane supply. Make sure that you are aware of your current supply to decide your needs to get through the heating season.
2. Call your provider. Get in touch with the propane provider that issued your tank. Begin a good working relationship and develop a plan for your propane supply including refills, automatic refills and payment programs to make sure your tank stays full.
3. Fill up early. By filling your tank early (before the demand for propane increases due to falling temperatures) you can help your provider better plan for supply needs so that everyone has a safe and comfortable winter.
4. Make sure your home or business is running efficiently. Have a technician check your appliances and propane system, look for energy efficient upgrades like programmable thermostats, let the sun naturally heat your home by opening curtains and set your water heater no higher than 120 degrees.
5. Explore the Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP). HEAP is available to income-eligible customers in Ohio. For more information visit www.winterheat.ohio.gov
For more information from the PUCO, please visit their website at www.puco.ohio.gov
Last week, the PUCO offered 6 tips to help manage small-business utility costs. Check them out below!
- Pay attention to your bills: Reading and understanding your bills can help you detect problems early on. If you receive a bill that seems too low or too high, contact your utility company. It may be a sign of a faulty electric or natural gas meter, and getting the problem fixed can save you from overpaying or paying too little over a long period of time.
- Control the temperature: Lowering your thermostat in the winter and keeping the air conditioning at a reasonable temperature in the summer can result in a significant savings on your heating and cooling bills. Having an efficient heating and cooling system will also ensure you are using your electricity and natural gas most efficiently.
- Know your energy usage: Conducting a simple energy audit can help you find ways to conserve energy and discover places where you may be wasting energy. You can find a company to conduct an energy audit for you, or look for tools online to help you do the audit yourself.
- Understand the charges: When you get a telephone bill, check to make sure you are being charged for the correct number of telephone lines and other services. If you see a charge for a service you did not sign up for, contact the telephone company. It may be a sign of slamming or cramming on your telephone account.
- Look for energy efficient appliances and equipment: Many large and small appliances have models available that are ENERGY STAR approved for energy efficiency. Although they may cost a little more, you will save on energy costs over time. You can also replace incandescent lighting with ENERGY STAR compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs or light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs to increase the efficiency and the life of the lighting for your business.
- Research financial opportunities for energy efficiency investments: There are a variety of state and federal loan and grant programs to give businesses incentives to install energy efficient and renewable energy technologies.
The PUCO offers a variety of information to help small businesses understand their bills and conserve energy. For more information, contact the PUCO at (800) 686-7826 or visit their website here.