Protect yourself from utility scam artists targeting Ohioans

Who doesn’t love a talent- ed impersonator? Mahoning Valley residents each weekend flock to the Warren Community Amphitheater to jam to the sights and sounds of those who pretend to be Aerosmith, AC/DC, Kiss and even The Beatles. “Saturday Night Live” impressionists of such politicos as Sarah Palin and President Barack Obama amuse millions weekly with the artistry of exaggeration. Elvis Presley impersonators far and wide have built an industry out of illusion.

Unfortunately, not all impersonators are so entertaining — or so virtuous. Instead some stalking phone lines in Ohio are villainous.

Such are the impersonators of utility company representatives in Ohio who have been ripping off residents of thousands of dollars this summer. We join state Attorney General Mike DeWine in urging Ohioans to be on high alert against such shysters.

As Vindicator Staff Writer Burton Speakman reported earlier this week, a scam has been circulating in Northeast Ohio since early July in which callers claim to representatives of the Dominion East Ohio gas company.

Residents of Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties have received calls from someone claiming to be from the company wanting to talk to them about lower utility rates, said Kate Hanson, public information officer for the Ohio Attorney General’s Office.

The callers use scare tactics by threatening immediate utility shutoffs and high-tech trickery by disguising the number that appears on recipients’ caller ID to carry out their con game.


Dominion East Ohio has been made aware of the calls and has been working with the attorney general’s office and the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio to address them, but has not been able to stop the calls, said Neil Durbin, spokesman for Dominion East Ohio.

That means it’s up to savvy consumers to thwart the extortion. Here are a few tips, courtesy of the attorney general, to do so:

Never give out over the telephone your Social Security number, bank-account numbers or other personal and financial information.

If you receive a call claiming to be from your utility company and feel pressured for immediate payment or personal information, hang up the phone and call the customer service number on your utility bill immediately.

Jot down the caller’s telephone number and report it to local law-enforcement authorities to prevent you or others from becoming victims of costly identity theft.

Consumers who suspect a scam can contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at 800-282-0515 or visit

Following such common-sense suggestions will go far toward protecting Ohioans from the criminal instincts of this unsavory and predatory breed of impersonators.

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