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Fake energy bill email may not look like scam, DATCP warns

By Adam Schrager, aschrager@wisctv.com
Published On: Jan 17 2014 03:08:33 PM CST
Updated On: Jan 18 2014 04:18:49 PM CST

Image courtesy of Liam Dunn via Creative Commons

MADISON, Wis. -

Wisconsin's Consumer Protection Division is warning residents about a fake energy bill arriving in people's email inboxes.

The bill claims to be from PG&E, but Pacific Gas and Electric out of California said the email provides fake account numbers and is not from them.

"People are going to get taken in," said Marty Smith, a Madison resident who received the email and forwarded it to News 3. "To me, it's a no-brainer. There are two energy companies I deal with (MG&E and Alliant) and neither are PG&E."

The bill is for "$559.7" and encourages recipients with questions to click a link to their account statements. That is particularly what worries state officials, whose consumer alert said: "By clicking on any links in the messages, consumers risk having their systems infected with malware and losing personal or banking information to the scammers."

Due to the likeness between PG&E and MG&E (Madison Gas and Electric), the local utility issued its own statement and reminded consumers it will never ask for money or personal information by email.

"Recipients of these emails should be aware that it is not an email coming from PGE or MGE," read the MG&E statement. "This is a scam. If you receive this email, delete it and call your local police department's non-emergency phone number to report it."

The local utility's consumer awareness website can be found at www.mge.com.

To see what the email looks like, click on the News 3 Spam Report, which features a spam email consumers should be leery daily.

The three viewers who sent News 3 a copy of the same email each had it arrive in their inbox from a different Internet address. One came from an email registered in the United Kingdom, one in Denmark and one in the Netherlands.

 For Marty Smith, who spent 31 years working at the Wisconsin Crime Lab, questioning what's in front of him comes naturally. He hopes others can learn that scientist's creed.

"There seems to be a lot of spam emails like this, that are fishing expeditions, trying to get you to check on something," he said. "In science, you're just taught to question everything.

"It's automatic. I look at something questionable and say, 'Prove to me that you're real.'"

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