We all have utilities like water, electricity, and sewage, and we all pay these bills without putting much thought into it. But it’s time to pay attention. Scammers are tricking property owners and tenants into paying phony fees, and it’s happening more often than you think.

It starts with an urgent email, phone call, or postal mail insisting you’re late on a bill. Many people respond to the “urgency” without checking the legitimacy of the number or address. We all want to do the right thing, and out of fear, we may pay the bill without considering the legitimacy. In a matter of minutes, you’ve unknowingly paid a debt that didn’t exist.

How do we avoid these fraudulent debts? Several ways! For one, if anyone ever comes to your door asking for info, always ask for their company ID. Next, if you receive a notice – electronic or written – never click on links/attachments or call numbers listed and give out personal info. You should always go to your utility company’s website and verify numbers and addresses before responding. Related, email addresses should be indicative of the utility company. These are easy ways to spot possible scammers. Last, it’s wise to never pay utility accounts by wire transfer, prepaid debit cards, or gift cards.