BY ANNE CHECKOSKY
Beware of a Florida Power & Light-related telephone scam that may be targeting customers in the western communities. Laurelle Balog of Loxahatchee’s Deer Run neighborhood received a call on Aug. 12 that just didn’t ring right with her.
The woman who called Balog said inspectors would be in her area doing power usage assessments for the state because of a rate increase that FP&L was awarded.
“When I asked if it was FP&L, they kept saying I needed to make an appointment for the inspection. That didn’t sit right,” Balog said.
The woman never claimed to work directly for FP&L but intimated her company was working hand-in-hand with the energy company and the state.
When she asked about the purpose of the inspections, Balog was told it was to give recommendations on improving energy efficiency. “She said your bills are $250 a month. I asked, ‘Do you have my records in front of you?’” Balog said.
The woman didn’t answer her direct question but claimed that customers’ average monthly electric bills are more than $125 for more than six months of the year.
Balog said she pays less than $100 a month for electricity, even though she lives in an 8,000-square-foot home, because she keeps her thermostat on 82 and has gas appliances.
Finally, Balog asked the woman for a phone number, so she could call FP&L to make sure the inspection was legitimate. The woman hung up.
She sounded official, but Balog just knew there was something off about the whole thing.
“It was unnerving,” Balog said, “because you don’t know if they are fishing to find out when you’re not going to be home or they are targeting you to try and sell you something.”
Also bothersome, the woman claimed to live in the area but couldn’t pronounce “Loxahatchee,” Balog added.
She was right to trust her instincts. “It’s definitely a scam,” said Heather Kirkendall, an FP&L spokeswoman.
Unfortunately, it’s not a new scam or even the only one that’s active in the state right now.
“There’s always a number of scams throughout the state,” Kirkendall said, including one targeting customers in Miami that urges them to pay their bills using a prepaid card.
“If you’re in doubt [about a call], hang up and call us to verify,” Kirkendall recommended.
She also recommends alerting local law enforcement.
Kirkendall said to be on the lookout for other red flags, including phone numbers you don’t recognize.
In Balog’s case, the number from the woman who called her showed up as zeroes on her caller ID.
Kirkendall suggested customers visit www.fpl.com/protect for more information. All the latest scams are listed there, including recent or new scams and steps customers can take to protect themselves.
Also, remember that FP&L will never come to a home without making arrangements ahead of time, solicit personal information over the phone unless you initiate the contact, send e-mail threatening to close an account if you don’t divulge personal information or send employees to homes offering cash refunds on deposits or electric charges.
Balog has one additional piece of advice: “Don’t tell anybody when you’re not going to be home,” she said.