If you are contacted by someone who seems to represent your electric company and demands payment of a delinquent bill to keep power flowing, don't give right in. Scammers nationwide are using the tactic to fleece victims for bundles of cash.

A posting at the Edison Electric Institute web page details a ruse that's surfaced not only in New Jersey, but also in New York, Delaware, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland, Florida, Louisiana, Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Wisconsin and Washington, D.C.

Victims are notified, usually by phone, that they're behind on their bills and have a limited time to pay. They're induced to buy Green Dot prepaid debit cards, or other reloadable debit cards, fill them with cash and forward the serial numbers. They're told that the alternative is terminated service.

If you get such a call, disconnect and reach the customer service line of your supplier. Jersey Central Power and Light can be reached at 1-800-662-3115. Atlantic City Electric's customer line is 1-800-642-3780. Public Service Electric and Gas can be reached at 1-800-436-7734.

Electric companies do not take bank or credit card information by phone. Customers in arrears are sent written notices and are not subject to immediate payment demands.

If you believe you have been scammed, or encountered such a call, contact local police, your county Prosecutor's office, or the office of the New Jersey Attorney General.

There is handy information to help you protect your personal and sensitive date at the Federal Trade Commission web page.