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Scammers targeting SDG&E customers already hit hard by rate hikes

CBS 8 is Working for you to find out how the SDG&E scam works, so you can avoid being a victim.

SAN DIEGO — Scammers are taking advantage of SDG&E customers during a time when customers are facing high gas and electric bills.

One scammer tried to convince an elderly woman she was eligible for a refund on her credit card.

CBS 8 is Working For You to find out how this scam works and how to avoid falling for it.

“I got a phone call. And it came up on my TV, that it was from Julian, California,” said Julie Bannon, SDG&E customer.

Widow Julie Bannon from Oceanside says the man on the other end of her landline phone said he was from SDG&E with some good news.

"'You've got a $50 refund. And on top of that, you've got a $30 bonus,'" said Bannon.

Bannon grew suspicious. The day before she called SDG&E to find out her high bill was due to the increased rates and there was no refund in her account. That’s when she pressed the caller for answers. 

"Why don't you just send me a check.' And he said, ‘no, we can do it through a credit card.’ I asked, 'are you from SDG&E?' And he said, ‘yes.’ I said. 'they wouldn't send it through a credit card," said Bannon.

The elderly woman was right.

“SDG&E will never demand payment over the phone,” said Anthony Wagner, SDG&E Communications manager.

CBS 8 went to SDG&E to find out more about this ruse and other scams. They said some scammers will spoof an SDG&E number pretending to be from the utility company. 

Wagner says seniors, limited English speakers and first generation restaurateurs are targets.

“An imposter scammer will call a restaurant shortly before the lunch hour and say, ‘hey, you've not paid your gas or electricity, and we're going to shut you off before your lunchtime crowd,’” said Wagner.

SDG&E says your power won't be shut off that quickly. Still, too many ratepayers have fallen for the scam.

“Customers reported to us about or more than 200 scams in which there was above a $200,000 loss altogether, it's safe to say that that's under reported,” said Wagner.

SDG&E says it alerts customers of the latest scams that happen every day.

“If you think you've been scammed, you can go to the Federal Trade Commission and file a complaint. High dollar value scams that you think you've been scammed, give us a call. We will work with you and work with your insurance company to document that loss and help you through that process,” said Wagner.

Bannon knows she's an easy target and hopes to make it harder for SDG&E scammers.

“There's a lot of easy targets out there, though, unfortunately,” said Bannon. “That's why I wanted people to be aware of.”

SDG&E says there are legitimate ways you can pay your bill.

You can go through My Account on the SDG&E app or you can go in person to one of their offices, mail a check using the payment stub, or using BillMatrix, an automated telephone system.

At CBS 8, we are always Working for You and our San Diego community. If there is something you would like us to investigate, please share your idea here or email us at workingforyou@cbs8.com. 

WATCH RELATED: Are natural gas prices really behind recent SDG&E rate hikes? (Jan. 2023).

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