A pair of door-to-door salesmen spawned fear of a utility scam targeting Columbus Light and Water Department customers this week.
CLW put out a press release Tuesday afternoon alerting customers that “persons claiming to be affiliated with (CLW)” were asking for copies of monthly billing statements “to save you money.” It went on to ask customers to report “related incidents” to the Columbus Police Department.
CLW General Manager Angela Verdell said the utility had received a handful of calls this week about two people — a man and a woman — knocking on doors and asking for billing information. She said they occasionally asked to come inside a resident’s house or looked at meters.
“One person called our dispatcher and said a man and a woman claiming to work with us were at her door,” she said. “They told her they wanted to review her billing statement and save her some money, and they asked to come inside. They didn’t look right to her, and she called us.”
Columbus Police Chief Fred Shelton said the incidents seemed to be related to door-to-door salespeople hawking solar panels to homeowners.
A police officer responded to a home in East Columbus after a call that two people were impersonating CLW employees and asking to come inside, Shelton said. When the officer arrived both the individuals, as well as an actual CLW employee, were there. The employee said the other two were not employed with the utility.
“It was a man and a woman, and they both denied that they had claimed to be with CLW,” Shelton said. “The homeowner said that they did, but we could not confirm or deny that. They told us they were selling solar panels.”
Door-to-door salespeople must get a permit from the Building Inspection Department before pounding the pavement, Shelton said, and the two in question were instructed to obtain a permit, which they had not done.
No crime had been committed, Shelton said.
Verdell cautioned members of the public not to give out billing information.
“We will never show up and ask for something like that,” she said. “We have that information in our system already and we can pull it up if we need it.”
CLW workers will always be in marked vehicles and wear uniforms that clearly identify them, she said.
“If anybody ever has any questions they can call us,” she said.
She directed anyone with concerns to either call the dispatcher at 662-243-7440 or the customer service line at 662-328-7192.
Shelton said that scammers were becoming more active in the community and urged caution if anyone asked for personal information or to look around your house.
“They could be trying to get identifying information for some kind of fraud, or casing the house to come back and break in later,” he said.