Phone scams over utility bills have bilked customers for hundreds of dollars. According to Southern California Edison (SCE), a Business owner in the City of San Fernando paid (insert figure here) a Rialto businessman paid tricksters $4,000. A restaurant shop owner in Torrance shelled out $1,300.

And recently, the San Fernando Police Department sent a warning after it received reports concerning phony customer service representatives calling business owners (and residents? — please check this) asking for money for past due utility bills. The caller requests payment using a Green Dot card or by providing personal account information. The crooks often threaten people they will disconnect service unless payment is made immediately. 

If you get such a call, don’t give any information or pay them any money. It’s a scam, authorities warn.

Since the beginning of the year, SCE has received over 2,000 complaints about scam calls; 300 of those were from people (10%) and  businesses (90%) who fell prey to the crooks. SoCal Edison says the amount defrauded  amounts to $225,000.

The scammers tell people that their bills are overdue and persuade them to pay with a prepaid debit card to avoid having their service disconnected. The crooks then cash out the card.

Scammers recently started claiming that police would be sent to the victim’s home or business if an immediate payment wasn’t made, according to SoCal Edison.

Some scammers have even set up telephone lines with a message from a so-called “Southern California Edison Disconnection Department.”

SCE does not contact the police about customers’ bill payments and the utility does not have a “Disconnection Department.”

According to law enforcement officials, the majority of victims are small business owners and entrepreneurs whose first language is not English.

And the worst part is that even if you fall prey to the scam, you still have to pay your utility bill.

“The best way for customers to protect themselves against utility impostors and this phone scam is to educate themselves, their employees and their friends about being aware when they receive telephone calls from individuals demanding money for payment,” said Kari Gardner, SCE’s manager of consumer affairs, in a press release that went out recently warning about such scams.

If you receive a phone call from a utility or service provider reporting that you owe money, please take the following precautions first: 
1. Obtain the name and call back phone number from the person calling and do not provide any personal account information. 
2. Disconnect the call. 
3. Call the customer service number listed on your official utility or service bill and advise the customer service representative about the call. 
3. If the call was legitimate, you will be able to settle your bill over the phone with the verified customer service representative. 
4. Never give out credit card, ATM or calling card numbers over the phone to anyone.
5. Never use a call-back number provided by an unknown caller to verify billing information
6. Also, be suspicious of anyone who arrives at your house without an appointment, asking to check an appliance, wiring or suggesting that there may be some other electrical problem in or outside your home

Official utility and service providers will not ask for payment with a Green Dot card. Always contact your official utility or service provider with the customer service phone number from an official bill first! 

Please contact the San Fernando Police Department 24 hours a day at 818-898-1267 to report suspicious activity.