SAN FRANCISCO–(BUSINESS WIRE)–As the number of scams targeting utility customers continues at an alarming rate, typically over the phone, online or in person, PG&E is joining the Federal Trade Commission to help customers recognize potential scams during the Week National Consumer Protection Agency from March 6 to 12, 2022.
In fact, in 2021, PG&E received more than 11,000 reports from customers targeted by scammers impersonating the company, and customers lost nearly $600,000 in fraudulent payments. Unfortunately, this number is probably just the tip of the iceberg for overall scam attempts, as many go unreported. The number of reports continues at a high level so far in 2022, as PG&E received 1,055 reports of attempted scams in January alone, with customers paying scammers over $65,000 during the month.
“PG&E would like to remind customers if you ever receive a call threatening to disconnect if you do not make immediate payment, hang up and call PG&E to confirm your account details or log in to your account at PGE.com. remember that PG&E will never ask you for your financial information over the phone or by email, nor will we ask for payment via prepaid debit cards or other payment services like Zelle,” said Chris Zenner, Vice President, PG&E Residential Services and Digital Channels.
Scammers are opportunistic and look for times when customers may be distracted or stressed, as has been the case during the COVID-19 pandemic. Meanwhile, scammers have increased calling, texting, emailing and in-person tactics and are constantly contacting utility customers demanding immediate payment to avoid disconnection from service. As a reminder, PG&E will never send a single notification to a customer within one hour of a service outage, and we will never ask customers to make payments with a prepaid debit card, gift card, any form cryptocurrency or a third party. party digital payment mobile apps.
Scammers can be convincing and often target the most vulnerable people, including the elderly and low-income communities. They also target their scams on small business owners during peak customer service hours. However, with the right information, customers can learn to spot and report these predatory scams.
Signs of a potential scam
- Disconnection threat: Scammers may aggressively demand immediate payment of a suspected overdue invoice.
- Request for immediate payment: Scammers may ask the customer to purchase a prepaid card and then supposedly call them back to pay a bill.
- Prepaid card request: When the customer calls back, the caller asks for the prepaid card number, giving the scammer instant access to the funds on the card.
- Refund or rebate offers: Scammers may say that your utility company overcharged you and owes you a refund, or that you are entitled to a refund.
How customers can protect themselves
Customers should never purchase a prepaid card to avoid disconnection or termination of service. 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, over the phone, by automatic bank draft, by mail, or in person.
If a scammer threatens to immediately disconnect or shut down service without prior notification, customers should hang up the phone, delete the email, or close the door. Customers with overdue accounts receive advance notice of disconnection, usually by mail and included with their regular monthly bill.
Opening an online account at pge.com is another guarantee. Not only can customers log in to check their balance and payment history, they can also sign up for recurring payments, paperless billing, and helpful alerts.
Scams impersonating trusted phone numbers: Scammers are now able to create genuine 800 numbers that appear on your phone screen. The numbers do not return to PG&E if called back, so if in doubt, hang up and call PG&E at 1-833-500-SCAM. If customers feel they are in physical danger, they should call 911.
Customers who suspect they have been defrauded or feel threatened when in contact with one of these scammers should contact local law enforcement. The Federal Trade Commission website is also a good source of information on how to protect personal information.
For more information on scams, visit pge.com/scams or consumer.ftc.gov.
PG&E, a subsidiary of PG&E Corporation (NYSE: PCG), is a combined natural gas and electric utility serving more than 16 million people across 70,000 square miles in northern and central California. For more information, visit pge.com and pge.com/news.