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September 2007

Copper Thieves Could Cost You More

Copper and other metal prices are continuing to climb to record heights and thieves have begun to notice.

While theft reports in Wisconsin are relatively limited to date, thefts are increasing nationwide and some thieves have died while trying to steal metal from power substations. In response, State Representative Phil Montgomery (R–Ashwaubenon) and State Senator Jeff Plale (D–South Milwaukee) are drafting a bill with a coalition of electric cooperatives and utilities that would make the sale or purchase of stolen scrap metal illegal.

In addition, Representative Marlin Schneider (D–Wisconsin Rapids) already has introduced Assembly Bill 429, a bill that would make copper and other metal theft a crime with fines up to $10,000 and a term in jail of up to nine months if the value of the stolen metal is $2,500 or less. If the value is more than $2,500, the thief could face a prison term of up to three-and-a-half years.

Cooperative members can help prevent the loss or destruction of valuable electric cooperative equipment by reporting suspicious activities near electric cooperative facilities. You should contact your local electric cooperative, your local law enforcement agency, or the Wisconsin Electric Cooperative Association at 608/258-4400. Not only will you save by preventing a theft of cooperative property, but you could also be eligible for a reward of up to $1,000 if you provide information leading to the conviction of anyone who willfully damages your cooperative’s property.

Beware of Electric Bill Payment Scam

In late July, the Wisconsin Public Service Commission warned consumers that unauthorized parties were contacting consumers of Wisconsin Public Service (WPS), a large investor-owned utility serving much of Northeast Wisconsin. According to WPS, the callers claimed to be representing a company that could “help” the consumers pay their electric bills. A caller would ask for the customer’s e-mail address and direct him or her to visit a website.

Fortunately, one customer was suspicious and contacted the company to complain. WPS researched the website and determined that the caller “may be seeking customer bank account or credit card numbers.” WPS representatives contacted the company at a phone number listed on the website and noted that when they called the number, someone answered under a different name than the one listed on the website. The person who answered WPS’s inquiry then said no outgoing calls had been made and suggested there must have been a mistake. The person also reportedly became “evasive when asked to provide the type of business, only saying that they help merchants with credit card problems.”

Wisconsin Public Service stated that it is “not aware of any legitimate companies seeking to help its customers with utility bill payments.” WPS urged its customers not to give out personal information over the phone, including utility, bank, or credit card numbers.

In similar fashion, con artists could begin calling electric cooperative members, offering to help with electric bill payments. Take WPS’s recommendation seriously; NEVER give out personal identifying information to someone who calls you. You never know if such callers are who they say they are. Furthermore, NEVER visit the website they have listed. The website could contain spyware, which you could unknowingly download.

Copyright ©2007 Wisconsin Energy Cooperative News
All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.