October 29, 2007

ROSEMEAD, Calif., Oct. 29, 2007— Southern California Edison (SCE) is warning its fire-affected customers who are returning to homes without power to be wary of con artists who pose as utility workers. 

SCE is urging its customers to be alert for suspicious men or women claiming to be SCE employees or contractors working for the utility. Typically, these impostors promise to restore power to customers’ homes for a fee or offer to collect money from a customer to avoid having their power turned off.

“We want to make sure that our customers, who have already been through a very tough time, don’t end up being taken advantage of by someone posing as one of our employees,” said Robert Sypult, SCE director of corporate security. “We strongly urge them to make every effort to verify the identity of anyone claiming to represent SCE, especially if asked for money or personal information. No legitimate utility worker will object to being checked.”

Customers should immediately end conversations with suspicious service representatives and report the incident to their local police or SCE.

“It is a crime to impersonate a utility worker—in person or over the phone—and impostors will be prosecuted,” Sypult said. 

Both SCE and law enforcement officials suggest that the best safeguard against impostors who arrive at your home is to have the worker wait outside until the person’s identity can be verified. If contacted by phone, SCE recommends that customers get as much information about the caller as possible, including name, department and a business phone number.

SCE recommends customers keep these tips in mind to avoid becoming a victim of a scam:

  • Never reveal your credit card, ATM, or telephone calling-card numbers (or PIN numbers) to anyone. An SCE employee will not ask for money, credit card information or to use your phone. An exception is in rural areas, such as Lake Arrowhead, Tehachapi, Kernville, Catalina, Bishop, Mammoth, Ridgecrest and Blythe. In these areas, SCE representatives may accept money, as well as offer the option to make a quick check payment. If you have any concerns, call SCE’s toll free number at (800) 655-4555 to verify the collections activity.
  • Be suspicious of anyone who arrives at your house without an appointment asking to check an appliance, wiring, or suggesting that there may be some other electrical problem at your residence.
  • 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.
  • Do not let anyone into your home (whether in uniform or not) unless you verify who they are by checking their identification and asking him or her to state the reason for the visit. SCE  employees involved in collection activities have an SCE identification badge, wear uniforms and drive marked company vehicles.
  • If you are at all suspicious of a person representing themselves as an SCE (or any other utility) employee, contact the local police department immediately or contact SCE at (800) 655-4555.

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An Edison International (NYSE:EIX) company, Southern California Edison is the largest electric utility in California, serving a population of more than 13 million via 4.8 million customer accounts in a 50,000-square-mile service area within Central, Coastal and Southern California.