Across the country, there has been an alarming increase in bill payment scams targeting utility customers. In the last several months, more than 500 incidents have been reported by Southern California Edison (SCE) customers.
These scams often involve a customer receiving a phone call from a fake utility worker asking for immediate payment on an alleged past due account or their electrical service will be cut off. Usually the customer is asked to make the payment using a prepaid cash or debit card.
“This scam is targeting electric customers today. Tomorrow, scammers could target cable customers or natural gas customers,” said Karen Nalven, president of the Better Business Bureau in West Florida. “That’s why it is important to increase awareness about payment scams in general so that customers understand the red flags and know what to do.”
To date, about 75 SCE residential and business customers have been the victims of this scam. Customer losses average between $800 to $1,000.
“We ask our customers to be alert to these calls that demand immediate payment and threaten service disconnection,” said Henry Martinez, SCE vice president of Safety, Security & Compliance. “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.”
SCE will never ask its customers to make an immediate payment or risk having their electricity shut off.
SCE utility workers are trained to provide verification, including their department and contact number, when asked to do so by a customer.
An SCE employee will never come to a customer’s household or place of business asking for payment. In most cases, home visits by SCE are scheduled by the customer and the appointment will be confirmed in writing. If a stranger approaches you at your home or place of business, law enforcement advises that you have the purported utility worker wait outside until their identity can be verified.
Some additional tips include:
· Never reveal your credit card, ATM or calling-card numbers (or PIN numbers) to anyone.
· If someone calls and requests you leave your residence at a specific time for a utility-related cause, call the police. This could be a burglary setup by the caller.
· 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 inside or outside your residence
· For more ways customers can stay safe, please see SCE.com/safety and read the safety tips section.