Utility Scammers Continue to Target Residents and Businesses
(November 20, 2018)
This week, a scammer claiming to be a PGE customer service rep called an auto repair shop and threatened to cut off their electricity if they didn’t pay a past due bill within 45 minutes.
The owner knew the account was up-to-date. He called the phone number provided on the voice message to dispute the claim that his account was 60 days overdue. The call taker, “Kathy”, stated that she could transfer him to the financial division to discuss the status of his bill, but the electricity would be cut off in 45 minutes unless payment was rendered. When she instructed him to pay by a Green Dot MoneyPak prepaid card and call back with the number, he realized it was a scam. He hung up and called PGE directly using the phone number printed on his utility bill.
This scheme has been around for a several years and targets residents and businesses alike. These scammers are effective at using pressure tactics to get people to act before they have time to do their research. A concerning development in this case is the similarity between the phone menu used in this scam and PGE’s menu.
Some tips for avoiding this scam:
- Be suspicious of callers who pressure you to act now and demand immediate payment for any reason.
- If you receive an unsolicited call, email or text stating you owe money, contact the company directly using information from your account statements, info from the company’s website or another reputable source.
- “Beware of money scams. PGE would never demand payment by a prepaid credit card to prevent disconnection of service,” warns PGE on its phone line. (Prepaid cards may include Green Dot MoneyPak, Vanilla Reload, prepaid Visa and Mastercards or gift cards such as ITunes).
- Don’t pay by wire transfer either. Scammers want you to pay using a method that can’t be easily stopped or recovered.
- Never give personal or financial information in response to an unsolicited call, email or text.
- Don’t rely on caller id to determine if a caller is legitimate. Many scammers “spoof” caller id so that a fake umber or organization appears on your phone.
- Inform loved ones and friends about these kinds of scams.