MoneyConsumer

Actions

November 16th is Utility Scam Awareness Day, and Pacific Gas & Electric has advice for customers

Scammers robbed utility customers of over $1 million in 2022 alone. PG&E wants to spread awareness and help their customers keep their information and money safe from scams.
Scam alert (FILE)
Posted at 10:53 PM, Nov 15, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-16 01:55:35-05

OAKLAND, Calif. (KERO) — November 16th is Utility Scam Awareness Day, and Pacific Gas & Electric is partnering with Utilities United Against Scams to help customers protect themselves and their money.

During 2022, PG&E received over 23,000 customer reports that they’d been contacted by scammers who were trying to impersonate the utility, and customers have lost nearly $1.3 million dollars to scams. The company says this is an alarming increase over 2021, when there were just over 11,000 reports of scams. PG&E also says this is likely a low number, as many scam attempts go unreported.

Aaron Johnson, PG&E Bay Area regional vice president reminds customers that the utility will never ask for a customer’s financial information over the phone, never become threatening or hostile with a customer, and will never request payment via online cash transfer apps or gift cards.

“Avoiding a scam is as simple as hanging up the phone,” Johnson said in a statement from PG&E. “If you ever receive a call threatening disconnection if you do not make immediately payment, simply hang up and either call PG&E to confirm your account details or log onto your account on PGE.com.”

According to PG&E, scammers are opportunistic. They will wait for times when they think customers are likely to be distracted, tired, or stressed, and the holiday season provides them with a prime opportunity.

Utilities United Against Scams Chair Bud Ajdukovic says utility companies will continue to fight against the rising tide of scams by educating the public and spreading awareness, as well as working with telecom companies to restrict scammers’ access to phone lines, and encouraging lawmakers to adopt more aggressive policies for dealing with people proven to be scammers.

“Scams are on the rise, and these opportunistic criminals have used past crises such as the pandemic and natural disasters to target customers and small businesses when they are most vulnerable,” said Ajdukovic.

Signs of a potential scam:

  • Scammers may aggressively demand immediate payment for an alleged past due bill. PG&E reminds customers that they will never become hostile or combative with a customer, and if anyone claiming to be PG&E ever becomes that way with you, hang up on them and call PG&E’s scam reporting line at 1-833-500-SCAM (7226).
  • Scammers may instruct the customer to purchase a pre-paid card and give them the numbers from the card as part of a supposed payment. PG&E does not accept payment in gift cards, third-party cash transfer apps, or cryptocurrency. Go to PGE.com to find out the ways PG&E can accept payments from customers.
  • Scammers may say that the utility company has overbilled you or owes you a refund. This is a trick to get you to reveal your banking information to them. They claim to need to credit your account and ask you for your bank account numbers, saying they need to transfer the money back to you. In the event that PG&E overbills or owes you a refund, they will either credit your next bill, charge it back to your debit or credit card, or send you a check in the mail. They will never contact you over the phone and ask for your banking information to process a refund.

PG&E would also like to make sure their customers are aware that network technology has made it possible for scammers to spoof caller ID numbers. You may get a call that looks like it’s coming from PG&E, but a return call to the number won’t go back to PG&E. If you have any doubts whether you’re speaking with a genuine PG&E representative, hang up and call the customer service number on your PG&E billing information to verify.

Creating a customer account at PGE.com is another way you can protect yourself from scammers. At any point during a call you think is not legitimate, you can log in to your account online and double-check the status for yourself.

Utility customers who suspect that they have been defrauded by a scammer or who feel threatened by a scammer should contact local law enforcement. You can also go to the Federal Trade Commission’s website for more information about scams and how to protect your personal information and your money.