SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. — Scams targeting San Diego Gas & Electric customers are on the rise, the utility said Tuesday, with fraudsters posing as SDG&E representatives, threatening to shut off victims' power and demanding payments over the phone.
SDG&E says customer reports of scams have roughly tripled from March to April of this year.
The utility says it does not demand payments over the phone, though scammers will often warn callers of imminent power shutdowns if payments are not made immediately. Commonly targeted victims include restaurant owners, small businesses, homeowner associations, the elderly, and limited-English speakers.
Some examples of prevalent scams include fraudulent callers warning victims that their account is delinquent and will be shut down within the hour pending payment.
SDG&E says customers will be asked to pay via Bitcoin, Zelle, Green Dot debit cards, or other non-traditional forms of payment that it does not use. One local business targeted in this fashion lost more than $25,000, the utility said, as the victim was told to continually repeat a transaction that supposedly failed to go through multiple times.
The scammers also utilize caller ID spoofing, which allows their calls to appear to originate from numbers with 619, 858, or 760 area codes, despite the fact that many such schemes are based outside of the country, according to SDG&E.
"The scammers are persistent with their questions and threats," an SDG&E statement read. "The scams vary in levels of sophistication including being passed off to other role players to give the perception the imposter is calling from a large organization."
Some tips SDG&E provided to avoid being scammed include:
-- SDG&E will never call to demand immediate payment made over the phone with the threat of immediate service disconnection.
-- SDG&E will never accept any payment over the phone -- any individual requesting payment over the phone is an imposter.
-- The only utility bill payment options are listed on SDGE.com at https://www.sdge.com/residential/pay-bill/my-bill. Payment include My Account, Credit/Debit Card through BillMatrix, a Branch Office location, Pay by Mail, or an Authorized Payment Location.
-- SDG&E does not accept pre-paid cash cards, Zelle, Green Dot, or Bitcoin for bill payments.
-- Never provide your utility bill information to anyone you do not know.
-- Never provide anyone your on-line utility login credentials.
-- Never use the call-back number provided by an unknown caller to verify billing information.
-- Have a conversation about utility scams with older family members and friends to ensure they do not fall victim.
-- Don't forget, you can always check your bill and payment history via sdge.com/Myaccount
Anyone who believes they are receiving a suspicious call was advised to terminate the call and call SDG&E's Customer Contact Center.