Ohio utility company warns of scammers sending fake checks

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – A local utility company is warning the public about a re-emerging scam.

Better Call 4 first told viewers about it in October, but five months later, it continues to make the rounds, targeting customers and noncustomers alike.

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“We’re not trying to scare customers, you know,” said Amanda DePerro with Columbia Gas of Ohio. “We don’t want customers to be nervous, but we do want them to be cautious.”

That was the warning from Columbia Gas of Ohio, when they first spoke with NBC4 last fall. Back then, some noncustomers had reached out, concerned about letters and checks they received that appeared to come from the utility company.

“The first person who reached out to us, they’re from Maryland,” DePerro said. “And they reached out to us toward the end of September (2023), and they had received an $8,500 check in the mail, claiming to be from Columbia Gas. And then, a few days later, someone from Seattle, Washington reached out and said, ‘I received a check for $3,800.'”

The checks also came with letters, instructing the recipients to deposit the checks at their banks. Then, email back copies of the deposit slips. But in an alert on its website, Columbia Gas of Ohio stated, “these checks are fraudulent, and do not come from us.”

Fast forward to March 2024, and the company is once again sharing that message, as more people reported receiving more of these checks.

“If we’re sending you a check in the mail, we’re gonna let you know,” said DePerro. “If something comes that is out of the blue, that should be your first red flag.”

The second red flag?

“The letter was just not professionally written,” DePerro said. “You can kind of see those errors in the spelling.”

Columbia Gas said it does frequently reach out to customers, but if an individual is ever in doubt about whether the letter, call, email or in-person visit they receive is legitimate, they should take a step back before acting.

“If you want to double check, please give us a call, please reach out, and we can verify that person’s identity, or you know, a letter in the mail, we can confirm whether it came from us,” DeParro said.

For current customers, there is no threat to personal information, as long as the customer doesn’t respond to the scheme. Again, reach out to the company first with any concerns.

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