Identity Theft: Utility Identity Theft

What is utility identity theft?

Identity thieves and fraudsters may select victims with strong credit records to obtain cable television, water, trash pick-up, electricity, gas, or telephone service.  Since these services allow their bills to be kept open for several months past the due date, the fraudster can obtain free services for a substantial amount of time before being reported to the credit bureaus.

Utility identity theft has decreased in proportion to other forms of identity theft reported to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) over the past three years.  In 2010, it made up 15%, in 2011 13%, and in 2012 utility identity theft accounted for 9% of all forms of reported identity theft.

In 2012, 7% (or 1,256 complaints) of all fraud reported to the FTC from Georgia alleged phone or utility fraud. 

Warning signs:

  • You receive calls from creditors claiming you owe utility bills that you do not owe.
  • You are denied service because of an existing delinquent account when you have not opened the existing account.

What to do if someone has obtained a utility in your name:

  • Contact the utility and speak to the fraud department.  Close the account the thief opened.  If you need additional help or the natural gas, landline, or electric utility is not helpful, contact Georgia’s Public Utility Commission at (800) 282-5813.
  • Contact the Federal Communications Commission for help with cell phone or telephone services.  Submit your complaint through their online complaint form.
  • If your long-distance calling card or PIN has been stolen, cancel them and obtain a new account number and PIN.
  • Ask the utility or telephone service to use a new unique identifier for your accounts.  Do not use your mother's maiden name, since this information is available in public records.
  • Contact the company hired to collect the debt.
  • Contact the three credit reporting agencies to report the fraud.
  • Record all contact you have had.

Prevention Tips:

  • Protect your identifying information.  This can include activities such as shredding information before it goes into the trash, using a strong password, and asking why a person or company needs certain information before providing it.
  • Routinely check your credit report so that you can identify fraudulent charges before you get calls from creditors.