Cuyahoga County’s Department of Consumer Affairs is issuing a new utilities scam alert after learning scammers are posing as electric company scam-alertemployees and calling Cuyahoga County residents, threatening them with immediate utilities shutoffs if they don’t pay.

The threat of losing power can scare people into wiring money or making a phone payment before they’ve had time to think the call through. Consumers across the country have been frightened into sending thousands of dollars worth of iTunes gift cards to scammers who pose as police, attorneys, debt collectors or IRS agents. Scammers have in the past used the names of First Energy, the Illuminating Company, Cleveland Public Power, Dominion East Ohio and Cleveland Water.

The Cuyahoga County Department of Consumer Affairs wants you to know it’s OK to hang up on these calls.

Consumers who receive these calls should hang up and report them to the Cuyahoga County Department of Consumer Affairs at consumeraffairs.cuyahogacounty.us or by calling 216-443-7035.

 How to protect yourself:

 Don’t panic. Utilities don’t make cold-calls about shut offs. They will always send written disconnection notices. Be skeptical of the Caller ID. Scammers may spoof their numbers. Know that disconnections are typically not scheduled at night or on weekends. Be wary if anyone asks you to pay a bill using a wire transfer, prepaid card or gift card. Those are payment methods most utilities don’t accept, but scammers like because they’re hard to trace. Never give account information to someone who calls you. If you believe you may owe, contact your utility using the number from your bill, not one provided by a caller.

 Follow the Cuyahoga County Department of Consumer Affairs on Facebook and Twitter to report, ask questions and stay up to date on the latest scams.