Utility companies across the nation have been issuing warnings to their customers about “utility impostors.” These impostors are con artists who typically contact a customer by phone or in-person and demand payment for a past-due bill.
In their December bills, Southern California Edison (SCE) customers were warned by SCE’s Consumer Affairs Manager Marlyn Denter, about the importance of customers being alert and aware when they receive calls from individuals demanding money for payment. “SCE will never call a customer to collect or demand money for past due bills,” said Denter. “We are not in the business of threatening our customers with the termination of service.”
The Metropolitan Utility District in Omaha, NE issued a similar warning on Dec. 30 in their Beware of utility bill payment scams post. The problem has become extensive enough that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued a Sept. 30 warning about utility bill scams involving telephone calls warning of an impending termination of service. The caller claims to be with the local utility and may be able to spoof Caller ID to make it appear that they are calling from the utility itself. Payment will be demanded in the form of payment GreenDot MoneyPak, PayPal, or prepaid gift card according to the FTC press release.
The utilities are advising customers of three steps sure to help prevent becoming a victim of the “Utility Impostor Scam.”
- Ask for identification from the caller. For phone calls, ask the caller to tell you the account number and the amount due. If you do not have a bill available, ask for the name on the account, the account address and the exact balance. For in person visits, also ask to see their photo identification.
- All utilities provide written billing and past-due notifications. If you have not received a past-due notification, call your utility immediately.
- Do not provide your Social Security number, credit card numbers or bank account information to anyone who requests the information during an unsolicited phone call.