True to the company name, the Northern Indiana Public Service Company, commonly known as NIPSCO, provides electric and gas service to a sizeable chunk of northern Indiana, and for much of the Northwest Indiana region, is pretty much the only game in town when it comes to these utilities.
This means there are plenty of scams in which someone pretends to represent the company. Most of the time, you hear about distraction schemes in which someone knocks on the door, claims to be a NIPSCO employee, and asks to be let into the home or to show the resident something outside. While the homeowner is distracted, an accomplice enters the house and steals anything valuable they can get their hands on.
But another type of scam has been making the rounds in the form of phone calls or text messages claiming that the recipient is late making a payment, and that their power is going to be turned off immediately unless they pay right away, usually by purchasing a prepaid debit card and relaying the card data back to the alleged NIPSCO employee. At a time when a lot of people’s financial situations are still reeling from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, it’s sort of the perfect scam for the season. Dial or text any 219 area code phone number, and you’re likely to get a NIPSCO customer, and more likely than usual to find someone who is a little behind on payments.
There are a few points to remember. First, if you are behind on utility payments, it will be reflected on your most recent bill. Contact the company directly and talk to someone—believe it or not, most utility companies would generally rather work with you on a plan than cut off your power. Also, whether you are behind or not, NIPSCO won’t ask you to meet an individual somewhere to pay cash, ask you to buy prepaid debit cards, or request a wire transfer. This is one reason I always encourage people to sign up for (and use) online payment options. That way, if you get a call or a text message about an unpaid bill or other issue, you can login and check for yourself. It also allows you to make a payment with a checking or savings account, credit or debit card. However, even if you still prefer offline billing and payments, never trust a caller (or texter) who is trying to alarm you, then asks for money. Hang up, do not respond, and call the utility directly to see if there is any truth to their claim. Chances are, there is not.