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New wrinkle on old scam: Telemarketers claiming Utah solar power deals

First Published      Last Updated Jan 03 2017 08:08 pm

Deception » A so-called “Utah Public Utilities Commission” used by callers does not exist.

Francine Giani wants to shed some light on a new "solar energy deal" telemarketing scam.

Giani, the executive director for the Utah Department of Commerce, said reports are coming from citizens who have received the pitches from a fake state government agency — the "Utah Public Utilities Commission."

Those receiving the calls are pressured to fork over money to secure the deal on cheap solar panels before a contrived deadline.

Such scams, using the names of real or fake government agencies, are not new. Past and ongoing fraudulent incarnations have posed as the IRS or local law enforcement to trick the unwary out of money.




"Impostor scams prey on your trusting nature with convincing names and language to confuse you into thinking it's the real deal. Hang up the phone and call the real agency to verify before acting first, "Giani advised.

The scammers' so-called "Utah Public Utilities Commission" does not exist, but it does sound similar to the real Utah Public Service Commission — and that agency is worried citizens may confuse this scam with the real UPSC and fall victim to the scam.

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

Some rules of thumb to avoid becoming a victim of such calls include:

• Never wire money, or agree to put money on a prepaid debit card and then send it to the caller.

• Don't share your financial or other personal information, or send a check or money order using an overnight delivery or courier service.

• Don't pay for a "prize," such as a purported sweepstakes; if you have ante up insurance, taxes or shipping charges to collect, it's not a prize — it's a scam.

• Don't trust provided names or numbers. Scammers will use official-sounding names and even "spoof" (i.e. fraudulently list on caller I.D.) legitimate telephone numbers to sell their claims.

• Put your number on the National Do Not Call Registry (donotcall.gov.) That may not stop all scammers from calling, but most legitimate sales representatives honor the restrictions.

Finally, report scammers to the Federal Trade Commission (ftc.gov/complaint) and/or the Utah Division of Consumer Protection (consumerprotection.utah.gov).

remims@sltrib.com

Twitter: @remims

 

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