Approximately 1,500 Southern California Edison (SCE) customers received fraudulent calls this year, resulting in more than 200 customers falling victim to the scam.
According to SCE's Consumer Affairs Manager Marlyn Denter, it is important for customers to be alert and aware when they receive calls from individuals demanding money for payment.
"SCE will never call a customer to collect or demand money for past due bills," said Denter. "We are not in the business of threatening our customers with the termination of service."
One of SCE's customers recently avoided becoming a victim when a man named "Luis" called claiming he worked for SCE and demanded payment on a late bill with a prepaid debit card. "This guy 'Luis' was really good," said the business owner. "He never broke away from his story and sounded like he knew what he was talking about. I pushed on him real hard saying this wasn't SCE's procedure. He never raised his voice and just said, 'We're sorry, sir, this is our new policy.'"
To stall time, the customer told the imposter that it would take approximately two hours to purchase a prepaid debit card and remit payment. In the meantime, the customer's spouse reported the call to SCE. A customer service representative confirmed that "Luis" was not an SCE employee and the customer did not have a past due bill.
"Luis" called two hours later demanding the money and threatened to shut off the power if payment was not made. The customer knew "Luis" was a fraud and confidently told him to disconnect his power. Nothing was shut off.
This business owner was fortunate. Others have not been so lucky. A customer in Rialto recently paid $3,000 in an attempt not to have the power disconnected, only to learn it was a scam. Customer losses average between $800 and $1,000.
"We want our customers to know that they can always call us if they have questions about their bill because we are here to help and we don't want them to become victims of this scam," expressed Denter.
Denter continued to emphasize that there are ways for customers to protect themselves. The following are tips to help customers protect themselves from these scam artists:
- Ask for the person's name, call back number, a supervisor's name, how much money they are requesting, and the method of payment.
- Check the area code of the number you are getting a call from. If it is not an 800 number, the call is fraudulent.
- Call SCE directly at 800-655-4555 to ask about your bill.
- Contact local authorities if you suspect the phone call is fraudulent.