With the alarming rise of bill scams targeting utility customers across the country, the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office is teaming up with Southern California Edison (SCE) to educate the public on how to avoid becoming the next victim.

“SCE and the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office share a common interest in keeping Los Angeles County residents safe from bill scams and other financial crimes,” said Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey.

Just this year about 800 instances of phone scams have been reported by SCE customers. Of that number, about 150 residential and commercial customers have been the victim of bill scams with each incident costing about $800 to $1,000.

In most cases, the scammers call their potential victims and tell them they must make immediate payment on past due bills or their electricity will be cut off. Customers are also asked to make the payment with a prepaid cash card or debit card.

“We ask our customers to be alert to these calls that demand immediate payment and threaten service disconnection,” said Marlyn Denter, SCE manager of consumer affairs. “Customers suspecting a fraudulent call should ask for the caller’s name, department and business phone number. If the caller refuses to provide this information, customers should terminate the call and report the incident immediately to local police or SCE at 800-655-4555.”

In most cases, home visits by SCE employees are scheduled in advance and the appointment will be confirmed in writing. If customers have any concerns when a stranger knocks on their door, law enforcement recommends that the workers wait outside until their identity can be confirmed. All SCE workers will provide verification, including their department and phone number.

“A first step to preventing financial scams — particularly among the elderly and in ethnic communities — is to educate the public,” said Lacey. “When these crimes do occur, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office is fully committed to prosecuting them to the fullest extent of the law.”

SCE also reminds its customers that its employees will never ask for money in person and recommends that credit card or ATM numbers never be revealed to anyone. For more information: SCE.com/FAQ.