KEEPING CUSTOMERS SAFE: With Utility Scams on the Rise, PG&E Offers Tips on How to Avoid Deceptive Scammers
Scammers are increasing the frequency of their attempts to defraud customers
OAKLAND, Calif. — With the number of reported scam attempts targeting Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) customers nearly tripling during the first seven months of 2023 compared to this time last year, PG&E is committed to helping customers recognize the signs of a scam and avoid falling victim.
“Scammers are constantly changing their tactics and tricks, so awareness and reporting are more important than ever to keeping our customers safe,” said Matt Foley, lead customer scam investigator for PG&E. “If a phone call, visit to your home or email doesn’t feel right, don’t fall for it. Delete it, shut the door or hang up. Remember, PG&E will never ask for your financial information over the phone or via email, nor will we request payment via pre-paid debit cards or other methods of money transfer, including mobile applications.”
A typical sign of a scam targeting a utility customer includes a caller claiming to be from PG&E and threatening disconnection if immediate payment is not made via a pre-paid debit card, digital payment mobile application, or other methods of money transfer. As a reminder, PG&E will never send a single notification to a customer within one hour of a service interruption and will never ask customers to make payments with a pre-paid debit card, gift card, any form of cryptocurrency, or instant mobile payment applications, like Zelle® or Venmo.
During the first seven months of 2023, reports of scams targeting PG&E customers increased nearly 200% compared to last year. Reports compiled by PG&E found that:
· There have been over 29,000 scam attempts reported by customers to PG&E.
· PG&E customers have been scammed out of nearly $580,000 in 2023 alone.
· At this point in 2022, PG&E had received just over 10,000 scam reports.
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 by visiting www.pge.com/scams or by calling 1-833-500-SCAM.
Signs of a potential scam
· Threat to disconnect: Scammers may aggressively demand immediate payment for an alleged past due bill.
· 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.
· Refund or rebate offers: Scammers may say that your utility company overbilled you and owes you a refund, or that you are entitled to a rebate, and ask you for your personal financial information.
· Scammers Impersonating Trusted Phone Numbers: Scammers are now able to create authentic-looking 800 numbers which appear on your phone display. The numbers don’t lead back to PG&E if called back, however, so if you have doubts, hang up and either log into your account at pge.com to confirm your bill details or call PG&E at 1-833-500-SCAM. If customers ever feel that they are in physical danger, they should call 911.
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.
· Signing up for an online account at pge.com is another safeguard. 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.
· 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. The Federal Trade Commission’s website is also a good source of information about how to protect personal information.
Pacific Gas and Electric Company, 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.