Scams, Fraud, and Imposters
Protect yourself from scams, fraud, and imposters
Don’t fall victim to scams or fraud. The first step to protecting yourself is to recognize suspicious activity. This can take many forms, such as:
- Someone pretending to be an HPS employee or contractor to gain access to your home
- A company claiming to be HPS, or associated with us, that solicits your personal information or offers to sell their products and services over the telephone or through the mail
- Emails, websites or mobile apps that appear to be from HPS and require you to provide personal information
- How to Protect Yourself
- New and Common Scams
- Watch Out for Malware
- Employment Scams
- Report Fraud or Scams
HPS employees are regularly in neighborhoods for reasons including reading or working on electric and water meters, administering home energy-saving programs and maintaining power lines. However, we occasionally hear reports of people posing as HPS employees. Please remember that all HPS employees carry a photo identification badge. Ask to see it and call us to verify, if you are in doubt.
Also, it’s important to remember that HPS will not:
- Come into your home without making arrangements ahead of time
- Solicit personal information over the telephone, unless you initiated the contact
- Send emails threatening to close your account if you do not take the immediate action of providing personal information
- Send employees to your home offering cash refunds on deposits or electric/water charges. We either credit your account or mail a check to your billing address
If you encounter suspicious activity that involves HPS's name or likeness:
- Ask to see the photo identification badge or work request number from suspicious individuals on your property who claim to be HPS employees
- Contact Us at 305-224-4800 to verify whether the individuals are truly HPS employees
- Do not allow anyone into your home if you feel suspicious, unsure or confused as to why they are there
- Do not provide personal information over the phone unless you called us
- Ignore any suspicious claims to provide personal information such as bank account numbers, user names and passwords, credit card numbers or Social Security number
- Delete suspicious emails that require you to act immediately to verify or provide personal information. If you are unsure of a suspicious email, send it to us at email@example.com to verify its authenticity
- Delete any emails from utilities with whom you’re not a customer
- Do not respond to suspicious emails. Responding often results in even more spam and scam attempts directed at you
- Do not trust contact information provided in suspicious emails
Phone scammers posing as HPS employees are targeting customers. These scammers are using false phone numbers that could appear on a caller ID to be HPS. They are also using a recording of our customer service phone message to make them sound legitimate. They then threaten to shut the power off unless a payment is made immediately with a prepaid card. These calls are not from HPS. We will never call and demand credit card information. In fact, we do not ask for any personal information from you unless you initiate the contact. If you ever receive a strange call and are in doubt, hang up and call us at the phone number listed at the bottom of your HPS bill. Authorities have been notified of this scam. It seems to be affecting utilities across the nation. If you think you may have been a victim, please click the Report Fraud/Scam tab above for further instructions on how to protect yourself. And remember, if you’re calling HPS, you’ll need your account number to manage your account.
Email Bill Scam
Scammers are targeting utility customers across the nation with emails that appear to be monthly bills from legitimate utilities. These emails are bogus and may contain malicious spam. Do not open or click them and do not provide any personal information. Authorities have been notified of this scam. If you think you may have been a victim, click the Report Fraud/Scam tab above for further instructions on how to protect yourself. Also, please know that HPS will never send emails threatening to close your account if you do not take the immediate action of providing personal information.
Non-HPS customers: If you are not an HPS customer and you receive something that looks like an HPS email bill, delete it immediately. It is a scam. Do not open or click the email.
HPS customers: If you receive an email bill from an electric/water utility other than HPS, it’s likely a scam. Do not open or click the email. Delete it immediately. If you receive an HPS email bill that looks different from your normal bill or seems suspicious in any way, do not click any links. Look at the account number to verify that it is your actual account number. You can find your account number by looking at an old bill or by logging in to your account at www.cityofhomestead.com/billpay. If the account numbers match, then the email is a legitimate email from HPS. If they do not, delete the email immediately.
Bill Payment Scam
Bill payment scams affect customers by spreading through social media and word-of-mouth. They can be part of nationwide scams. For example, scammers may tell customers that a third party, in most cases the Federal Government, Federal Agencies or a U.S. president, will pay their bills for them, sometimes in exchange for personal information such as Social Security numbers and banking information. Scammers may also provide fake or unauthorized bank information, and encourage customers to use it so that the government will pay their bills for them.
While customers may have received information from friends or the internet instead of the scammers themselves, we urge all customers never to use banking information that is not their own. Unauthorized use of bank account information is illegal, and any such payment applied to HPS bills will be reversed. Customers who use unauthorized banking information to pay their HPS bill will receive a letter from HPS stating their payment was invalid, and that they are still responsible for paying the amount owed.
Unsolicited Energy Audit Calls
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) filed legal action to stop an aggressive marketing scheme targeting customers of HPS and other Florida utilities. The group may have also posed as employees of HPS or approved HPS contractors in order to conduct home energy audits and sell energy-related services or equipment. If you or someone you know received calls or visits of this nature, contact the FDACS Consumer Assistance Call Center at www.800helpfla.com or by calling 1-800-HELP-FLA. We do not solicit our customers by phone to offer home energy surveys or audits. Our energy efficiency experts will visit your home only if you request it and prearrange a time.
Part of defending yourself against scams and fraud is watching out for malware. Malware can include viruses, spyware and any other unwanted software that gets installed on your devices without your consent.
Scammers might send a “phishing” email where they try to get you to click on a link or open an attachment – and if you do that, your computer will automatically download malware that can track your online activity. Criminals can use this tactic to gain access to your personal information and possibly commit fraud.
For tips on how to avoid, detect, remove and report malware, visit the Federal Trade Commission’s site on malware.
Scams often appear professional, so prospective job applicants should research the legitimacy of any job posting communication to avoid becoming a victim.
Examples of employment scams include:
- Requiring money or upfront payment for processing services or visa applications;
- Questionnaire-based employment interviews;
- Questionnaire-based decisions to hire; and
- Job offers through social media, such as Facebook.
The most obvious signs that a prospective offer is a scam:
- The offer came through a non-company email address (for example, Yahoo or Gmail) instead of a City of Homestead email address.
- The offer contains poor grammar and misspellings, especially of the company name in online domain names and email addresses.
- At some point, money is requested from the applicant.
Other common scam indicators:
- Employment offers without the formal recruiting process and an actual interview;
- Request for financial account information;
- Request for personally identifying information (Social Security Number, Social Insurance Number, National Insurance Number, passport information, passwords, etc.);
- Request for money to be sent to a third party; and
- Request for payment for business or professional opportunities.
If you suspect you have received a fraudulent job offer, please contact stopfraud.gov.
If you think you may have been a victim of a scam, please contact us by calling 305-224-4800. You can also contact the authorities listed below:
- Federal Trade Commission (File a complaint online)
- Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Affairs
- Financial Crimes Enforcement Network
- Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force
If you have been a victim of fraud or identity theft, it is critical that you take the following actions:
- Call the financial institutions and credit card companies that you deal with to inform them of the situation
- Call one of the three major credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax or TransUnion) to report it and place an alert on your account. The agency you contact will notify the other two bureaus
- Call the Social Security Administration if your Social Security card or number is stolen
- Change the PIN (personal identification number) and password to all of your online accounts
- File a police report and get a copy of it for your records
- File a complaint and an Identify Theft Affidavit with the Federal Trade Commission
- Remember to keep a record of what happened and the actions that you took to resolve the issue