Beware of scammers calling about utility bills

This story was originally printed May 12 in the Daily Post. To get all of the local news first, pick up the Post in the mornings at 1,000 Mid-Peninsula locations.

By the Daily Post staff

Scammers are busy trying to trick PG&E and Palo Alto Utilities customers out of their money.

In Palo Alto, residents and businesses have been calls from scammers wanting people to pay delinquent utility bills.

One such scammer, who gave the name of “Jason,” called the Daily Post on Monday (May 10) demanding $798.32 in payment immediately or the newspaper’s electricity would be cut in 10 to 15 minutes. The call sounded suspicious and no money was exchanged.

At Monday night’s council meeting, City Manager Ed Shikada said the city has been receiving reports of scam callers pretending to be from Palo Alto Utilities.

He said that anyone who suspect they are the victim of a scam to hang up and call police at (650) 329-2413.

He pointed out that customers can check their account balance online or by calling the Utilities Department at (650) 329-2161.

A warning for PG&E customers too

Also, PG&E is warning that scammers masquerading as utility workers trying to steal financial information from customers, file fraudulent tax returns, and then cash the refunds in their names.

On April 13, a PG&E impersonator deceived one customer out of $1,000 in Foster City, which was one of several cases in the past week brought to the attention of authorities. It’s suspected that many victims do not report cases due to embarrassment, officials said.

PG&E does not request financial information over the phone or email, nor would they demand payment for late bills on the spot, said Executive Vice President and Chief Customer Officer Marlene Santos.

“We urge customers to be extra vigilant during this time as criminals will use the tax filing deadline to create fear and scam unsuspecting victims, especially when a group of people is vulnerable or in a state of need,” Santos said.

PG&E lists several signs that suggest a customer might be dealing with a scammer. This includes a false representative pressuring a client for immediate payment for a past due bill, threatening to disconnect a customer’s account due to a 30-day lapse in payment, instructing a customer to buy a pre-paid card then encouraging them to make a payment, or offering a rebate or a refund for a bill.

Customers who suspect they are dealing with a scammer should contact law enforcement or www.pge.com/scams or www.utilitiesunited.org. — From staff and wire reports

3 Comments

  1. When a scammer calls, ask what he or she is wearing. Tell them an intimate secret, a deep perverted desire. A scammer will hang up in disgust, but a legitimate call center worker will stay on the line and play along.

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