PG&E warns customers of utility scams
SAN FRANCISCO — Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) is joining fellow electric, natural gas, water utilities and their respective trade associations in support of Utilities United Against Scams (UUAS).
UUAS is a consortium of more than 100 U.S. and Canadian utilities. UUAS will observe the second annual Utility Scam Awareness Day, on Wednesday, November 15, as part of a weeklong advocacy and awareness campaign, November 13 – 17.
UUAS is focused on exposing the tactics scammers use to steal money from utility customers and on educating customers on how to protect themselves.
“Awareness and reporting are keys to keeping customers safe from these scammers,” said Deb Affonsa, vice president, Customer Care. “It’s important that if customers get a call, a visit, or an email that just doesn’t seem right – say something by letting PG&E and law enforcement know.”
Electric and natural gas customers throughout the country are being targeted by impostor utility scams each day. Scammers typically use phone, in-person, and online tactics to target these customers. Scammers pose as electric, water or natural gas company employees, and they threaten that customers’ services will be disconnected or shut off if they fail to make an immediate payment – typically using a prepaid card or other non-traceable form of payment.
Scammers can be convincing and often target those who are most vulnerable, including senior citizens and low-income communities. They also aim their scams at small business owners during busy customer service hours. However, with the right information, customers can learn to detect and report these predatory scams.
Signs of Potential Scam Activity:
Threat to disconnect: Scammers may aggressively tell the customer his or her bill is past due and service will be disconnected if a payment is not made – usually within less than an hour.
Request for immediate payment: Scammers may instruct the customer to purchase a prepaid card then call them back supposedly to make a bill payment.
Request for prepaid card: When the customer calls back, the caller asks the customer for the prepaid card’s number, which grants the scammer instant access to the card’s funds.
How Customers Can Protect Themselves: Customers should never purchase a prepaid card to avoid service disconnection or shutoff. PG&E does not specify how customers should make a bill payment and offers a variety of ways to pay a bill, including accepting payments online, by phone, automatic bank draft, mail or in person.
If a scammer threatens immediate disconnection or shutoff of service without prior notification, customers should hang up the phone, delete the email, or shut the door. Customers with delinquent accounts receive an advance disconnection notification, typically by mail and included with their regular monthly bill.
If customers suspect someone is trying to scam them, they should hang up, delete the email, or shut the door. They should then call PG&E at 1.800.743.9000. If customers ever feel that they are in physical danger, they should call 911.
Customers who suspect that they have been victims of fraud, or who feel threatened during contact with one of these scammers, should contact local law enforcement authorities. The Federal Trade Commission’s website is also a good source of information about how to protect personal information.
UUAS is dedicated to combating impostor utility scams by providing a forum for utilities and trade associations to share data and best practices, in addition to working together to implement initiatives to inform and protect customers.
For more information about scams, visit www.pge.com.