COLUMBUS (WCMH) — “There’s never an immediate threat behind a disconnection. That is something that AEP does not do.”

That warning comes from Brett Schmied with American Electric Power as scammers target the power company’s customers.

“We are aware that scammers are reaching out to customers in multiple different ways –phone calls, emails, and sometimes even showing up in person,” Schmied said.

Joseph Heist called Better Call 4 after getting a call from a Columbus-area number. An automated message, claiming to be from AEP, told him his service would be disconnected and he would lose power in the next 30 minutes, unless he acted immediately, by pressing 1.

Heist said he pressed 1, and a man came on the phone. But what that man didn’t know is that Heist isn’t an AEP customer because he’s currently staying in a hotel.

He called AEP, who said it is aware of the scam.

“This is a very common scam, unfortunately, that happens to our customers,” Schmied said. “We certainly wish, at AEP Ohio, that there was a way that we could stop that from happening.”

That’s why, Schmied said, it’s important for you to know how to respond properly if you receive one of these calls.

First, hang up. Then, if you are a customer, go directly to the source and check on your account status to make sure the information you’re being told is accurate. If it’s not, and you believe the call to be fraudulent, call the utility company and let a representative know.

“We rely on our customers to provide that information, to let us know where the scams are happening, and how they’re happening, so we can get that education out to our customers,” Schmied said.

Schmied also addressed the concerns of customers during the pandemic. Some are worried about disconnection because they’re unemployed, still waiting to receive benefits, and are behind on payments.

He said the company is willing to work with each customer individually, adding that there are programs available to help, like the Neighbor to Neighbor Program.