SAN FRANCISCO, Calif.— Gung Hey Fat Choy! As customers celebrate Lunar New Year and the arrival of the Year of the Dog, Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) reminds them to be aware of scams which often happen during busy holiday seasons.
Scammers often aim their scams at senior citizens, low-income communities and small business owners. But, with the right information, PG&E customers can learn to detect, avoid and report these predatory scams.
“Nothing can ruin a festive time of year like Lunar New Year more than falling victim to a scammer. If customers get a call, a visit or an email that just doesn’t seem right, they need to let PG&E and law enforcement know,” said Fong Wan, Senior Vice President of Energy Policy and Procurement at PG&E.
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 a customer’s 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. Don’t fall for this scam.
More than 100 companies across North America have joined together in a consortium, Utilities United Against Scams, to warn customers. In 2017, the organization received reports from more than 15,000 people who lost money to the imposters.
Signs of Potential Scam Activity:
Here are some signs of potential scam activity:
• Threat to disconnect: Scammers may aggressively tell the customer that his or her bill is past due and that service will be disconnected if a payment is not made – usually within less than an hour.
• Request for immediate payment with a prepaid card: Scammers may instruct the customer to purchase a prepaid card then call them back supposedly to make a bill payment. 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
Here’s how customers can protect themselves:
• Never use prepaid card to pay a bill: 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.
• Ask for identification: Always ask for identification before allowing anyone claiming to be a PG&E representative inside your home. PG&E employees always carry their identification and are always willing to show it to you.
• Ignore the scammers: 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.
• Contact PG&E or 911: 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 1-800-743-5000. If customers ever feel that they are in physical danger, they should call 911.
• File report with local law enforcement: 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.
For more information about scams, visit www.pge.com/scams.
Pacific Gas and Electric Company, a subsidiary of PG&E Corporation (NYSE:PCG), is one of the largest combined natural gas and electric energy companies in the United States. Based in San Francisco, with more than 20,000 employees, the company delivers some of the nation’s cleanest energy to nearly 16 million people in Northern and Central California. For more information, visit www.pge.com/ and www.pge.com/en/about/newsroom/index.page.