Smishing is on the Rise: How to Combat It and Other Utility Scams

Stay alert and aware to protect your information…and your money

Some 97% of Americans now own a cellphone of some kind. And as everyone becomes increasingly dependent on mobile devices, cybercriminals have added a new way to trick unsuspecting victims — smishing.

What is smishing? It stands for SMS phishing and targets people through text messaging. Clarksdale Public Utilities reminds you to stay alert and protect yourself from fraudsters’ increasingly aggressive ways to get your personal information and your hard-earned money.

“Text message attacks are one of the newer ways scammers try to get you to let your guard down and give them what they want…your data, your cash or both,” said Curtis D. Boschert, CPU general manager. “Experts say this method is particularly effective because the messages appear to be legitimate and may even use names or numbers of trusted sources. But just as we reassured you that we never make immediate demands over the phone, we do not via text either.”

How can you tell if someone may be scamming you? They often contact you unexpectedly and create a sense of urgency.

The most common utility scam occurs when the fraudster calls and tells you that your electric bill payment is past due, and that your service will be disconnected if payment isn’t made right away. Although the scam can differ, you are frequently directed to transfer funds electronically, sometimes through “MoneyPak,” “Green Dot” or another third-party card or transfer system.

Other efforts include insisting on an immediate deposit for a new meter, sending phishing emails that sometimes include realistic looking fake utility bills or going door-to-door posing as utility employees to collect payments. Scammers also have asked customers to use Federal Reserve Bank routing numbers and Social Security numbers to pay bills.

Here are some tips to help you combat these tactics:

  • It is best to not respond. Hang up the phone, ignore the message, delete the email and contact CPU directly.
  • Never allow unannounced or suspicious individuals into your home. If something does not feel right, trust your gut and call the police.
  • Never give out personal or banking information by email or phone, including Social Security numbers, dates of birth or CPU account numbers.
  • Never click on links or attachments in unsolicited emails.
  • When necessary, CPU representatives call to remind customers about overdue bill payments, but they never request payment during those calls.
  • Only pay your bill through one of CPU’s safe and secure methods:
    • By mail
    • Via the online customer portal
    • Through automatic bank draft
    • In-person, via kiosk or in the drop box at the CPU office, located at 416 Third St.
  • Remember that CPU does not accept payments using prepaid or gift cards, cash reload cards, cryptocurrency (e.g., bitcoin) or wire transfers.
  • Before doing business online, secure all financial accounts with strong passwords and use different passwords for each account.
  • Be wary of promotions and offers that request your personal information.
  • Check bank and credit card statements routinely.

If you believe you’re a utility scam victim, you should notify the proper authorities, such as the local police or the state attorney general’s office. If you believe your CPU account has been affected, call us at 662-627-8499 or stop by the CPU office at 416 Third St. Monday-Friday between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.

Clarksdale Public Utilities is a municipally owned utility serving approximately 6,800 homes and businesses in Clarksdale, Mississippi. Its mission is to safely provide sustainable electric, water and wastewater services in a reliable and courteous manner by well-trained team members, committed to top quality, efficient operations, competitive rates and the vitality of the community.

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For more than 125 years, Clarksdale Public Utilities has supplied utility services that support our community’s growth, vibrance and quality of life. But we are more than a provider of reliable and affordable electric, water and wastewater services — we are your family, friends and neighbors. We are people who care. We are CPU.

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