August 16, 2006

ROSEMEAD, Calif., Aug. 16, 2006—Increased activity by scam artists impersonating Southern California Edison (SCE) employees is prompting the utility to again warn its customers that they need to be on the alert for utility imposters. 

“We’ve seen a definite increase in the number of scam attempts by criminals preying on our customers,” said Robert Sypult, SCE director of corporate security.  “We’re encouraging our customers to be careful and check identification before letting anyone into their homes.”

Impostors often target seniors, the disabled, and those who don’t speak or understand English well. The latest scam attempts usually involve a criminal—often identified as “Megan” or “Kimberly Walker”—calling a Spanish-speaking customer with a business and threatening to disconnect service if a payment isn’t made quickly via Western Union to a designated location or account. 

On at least one occasion, the scammers have even had a truck with a boom parked nearby while threatening to disconnect service if payment wasn’t made.

While utility imposters often work in pairs so that one can distract a victim while the other steals cash, jewelry or other items of value inside a home, the latest rash of scams involve phone calls and wire payments.

“It appears these predators are getting more sophisticated and more brazen,” said Sypult.  “We want our customers to be suspicious of anyone who calls demanding questionable payments or comes to their home or business without an appointment and wants to check an appliance, wiring or any electrical problem that allows them inside.”

In one recent incident involving an elderly Arcadia resident, someone claiming to be an SCE representative demanded credit card information from a customer to pay a past-due balance. The caller gave a toll-free number and employee identification number to the customer.  Unfortunately, the customer provided her credit card number.  The customer later learned that their credit card account had wrongfully been charged $400.

Most visits by utility workers are regularly scheduled or requested by the customer. Vendors engaged by SCE can visit to perform energy efficiency improvements, but customers first must respond to a request from the vendor, so they should not be surprised by a visit.

Most SCE employees wear uniforms and all SCE employees carry company identification.  Customers who encounter utility imposters are urged to immediately notify the police and call SCE at (800) 655-4555.

SCE offers the following tips to avoid becoming a victim of a utility representative imposter:

  • Before paying bills at a store or business, customers can verify that a vendor is an SCE authorized payment agent by calling 800-655-4555.
  • SCE employees will not ask for money, a credit card or to use a customer’s telephone.
  • Be suspicious if someone shows up without an appointment asking to check an appliance, wiring or suggesting another electrical problem may be inside your home.
  • Payments intended for SCE should only be made out to “Southern California Edison” or “SCE.”
  • Do not let anyone into your home unless you verify who they are and see the individual's identification and know the purpose for the visit.
  • If you live alone and a stranger approaches, imply that there is someone else in your home or indicate that someone will be arriving at your home momentarily.
  • Never reveal your credit card, ATM, telephone calling card or personal identification numbers to anyone, especially over the telephone.
  • Beware of any caller demanding you wire money via Western Union if you want to prevent your electricity being shut off.
  • If someone calls and requests you to leave your residence at a specific time for a utility-related cause, be sure to confirm the call with SCE.  This could be a burglary set up by the caller.

If an incident does occur, report it to the local police and contact SCE immediately by calling 800-655-4555.

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An Edison International (NYSE:EIX) company, Southern California Edison is one of the nation’s largest electric utilities, serving a population of more than 13 million via 4.7 million customer accounts in a 50,000-square-mile service area within central, coastal and Southern California.