Reports of scammers targeting PG&E customers are at an all-time high, and the utility this week offered help with how customers can avoid losing thousands of dollars to such schemes.
In the first four months of 2023, there have been more than 19,000 scam attempts reported by PG&E customers and nearly $342,000 lost, according to PG&E data. In all of 2022, the utility received nearly 23,000 reports of scammers impersonating the company, and customers lost about $946,000.
How PG&E customers can identify a typical scam
A typical scam includes a caller impersonating a PG&E representative and threatening disconnection unless the customer makes an immediate payment via prepaid debit card or money transfer service like Zelle, according to PG&E.
PG&E says it never sends a single notification to a customer within one hour of a service interruption and never asks customers to make payments with a prepaid debit card, gift card, any form of cryptocurrency or digital payment app.
Which PG&E customers scammers commonly target
Scammers can sound convincing and often target vulnerable PG&E customers such as senior citizens, low-income residents or busy small business owners, the utility says. A recent emerging scam has been targeting real estate agents via their listings, threatening to shut off power if immediate payment is not made.
Signs of a scam PG&E customers should watch for
Threat to disconnect: Scammers may demand immediate payment for an alleged past due bill.
Request for immediate payment: Scammers may tell the customer to purchase a prepaid card then call them back supposedly to make a 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 able to create authentic-looking 800 numbers which appear on your phone’s caller ID display. If you have doubts, hang up and call PG&E at 1-833-500-SCAM.
How PG&E customers can protect themselves
PG&E customers should never buy a prepaid debit card to avoid power shutoff, the utility says. PG&E won’t specify how customers should make a bill payment and offers a variety of payment options.
If a scammer threatens to disconnect service without prior notifice, customers should hang up the phone, delete the email or shut the door, PG&E says. Customers with delinquent accounts will receive an advance disconnection notice, typically by mail.
Signing up for an online account at pge.com is another safeguard, PG&E says. Customers can log in to check their balance and payment history and can set up a regular online payment method.
What PG&E customers can do if scammed
Customers who have been victimized or threatened by scammers, should contact local law enforcement. Also, the Federal Trade Commission’s website is a good source for how to protect personal information.
For more information, visit pge.com/scams or https://consumer.ftc.gov/scams.
Source: NBC Bay Area
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