As utility moratoriums begin to lift, Southern California Edison (SCE) is warning customers to be aware of scams.
The City of San Fernando was among the top ten cities hit by scammers in the first six months of this year. Ten SCE customers in San Fernando were scammed and collectively had $18,000 stolen from them.
In the first six months of this year, SCE customers reported being scammed out of more than $237,000 with more than half of the amount sent to scammers who insisted that money be sent to them using mobile cash apps such as Zelle.
The top ten cities that have been hit by scammers in the first six months of this year are the city of San Fernando, Huntington Beach, Santa Ana, Long Beach, Norwalk, Fontana, Pico Rivera, Westminster, Victorville and Los Angeles.
The scammers are prevalent and use various techniques that can include lifting official utility logs and using caller ID that looks official but the caller identification that shows up on your phone doesn’t mean the call is actually coming from the utility company.
“Many phone scammers are so skilled and well-equipped that they have ‘Southern California Edison’ or ‘SCE’ appear on their target’s caller ID,” said Ron Gales, SCE spokesperson. “Don’t assume that a caller ID that says, ‘Southern California Edison’ or ‘SCE’ is legitimate,” he warns.
“If the caller asks for money, for your SCE account number, for personal information like your social security number or bank account number, hang up and call the SCE customer service line printed on your electric bill to confirm the status of your account balance.”
Gales said that the utility company will send notices to your home by mail before shutting off service and with the pandemic, new programs have been created to help customers who are going through difficult times.
Scammers will threaten to shut off your power and put people in a panicked state telling them if they pay a sum immediately by sending cash to Zelle or another cash app that they won’t shut off your power. This prospect is especially threatening to business owners who can’t function without power.
These calls are often made to businesses on Friday afternoons. This causes great stress to business owners worried that they’ll have to shut down their business for the weekend which is often their busiest time. “The best defense is being informed about the tactics scammers are being successful with and what tactics they use,” said Gales.
“They try to catch people off guard and get people to react without stopping and thinking. SCE would never threaten or demand payment over the phone or through email and if anyone gets that kind of threat they should hang up and call Edison’s customer contact service number to confirm the status of their account. Often scammers will try to discourage you from calling customer service to verify the information and that is the indicator that the call is not legitimate.” Gales said.
Some of these scam artists are very good and may even offer a customer service number to confirm the scammer’s claim, but that number will likely be answered by another scammer who will apply more pressure and panic.
They are good at being convincing and appear very official.
“The tipoff is if they start trying to discourage you. Call the customer service number that is listed on your Southern California Edison bill and inquire about your account,” said Gales. “If a customer is at risk for service disconnection they will receive mail notification from the postal service – if they haven’t received one of those, they are very likely not at risk,” Gales pointed out.
To avoid being scammed, customers should remember:
SCE will never phone you to threaten disconnection and demand immediate payment
SCE will never phone you to ask for your credit card or SCE account information.
SCE doesn’t accept prepaid cash cards, bitcoins or payments through third-party mobile apps such as Zelle. SCE does not have a “disconnection” department.
“The last couple of years have been difficult for our customers’ public health and financially challenging due to the pandemic, so SCE has a number of programs to help customers who are behind on their bill payments, so the customer calls will be offered with one of those programs to help them with their payments,” said Gales. “If a customer receives a call, by someone who claims to be from Southern California Edison, and they aren’t offered one of those programs – that is also a tip-off [that the call isn’t legitimate].”
Business owners suspecting they’ve been targeted should call 800 990-7788 or email email@example.com or complete SCE’s online fraud form. They should also report the scam attempt to local law enforcement. Small business customers who are facing challenges with past due accounts can set up payment arrangements by calling 1800 900-7788.