Catalina Island News

SCE Advises Customers to be Alert to Billing Scam

2015-04-05
Southern California Edison

Southern California Edison (SCE) wants to remind customers on Catalina Island to be vigilant against impostors claiming to be with the utility and demanding immediate payment for allegedly past-due electricity bills.

“The best way for customers to protect themselves against utility impostors and phone scams 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, manager, SCE Consumer Affairs.

In one situation, scammers asked to verify account information, and in another, scammers asked questions about a specific account number.

Law enforcement officials say it’s difficult to catch these criminals, many of whom operate anonymously over the telephone and outside the U.S. SCE corporate security works closely with local, state and federal police agencies investigating telephone scams.

In recent years, an estimated 13,000 SCE customers have received calls from phone scammers posing as utility employees. Many victims are small business owners and entrepreneurs whose first language is not English.

And while the public has gotten more scam savvy, phone impostors have become more aggressive.

Scammers around SCE’s service territory have resorted to making claims that local police will be called to your home or business if an immediate payment is not received. Not true, say SCE officials.  

Others have established bogus telephone lines with a pre-recording that states: “Hello, thank you for calling Southern California Edison Disconnection Department.” SCE has no Disconnection Department.

Another twist on the scam involves “double-dipping” and “triple-dipping” victims. Scammed customers are called the day after they’ve paid impostors and told their transaction didn’t go through, to purchase another prepaid cash card and resend the money a second or third time.

Customers who suspect a fraudulent call are advised to ask for the caller’s name, department and business phone number. If the caller refuses to provide this information, SCE customers should hang up and report the incident immediately to local police or SCE at 1-800-655-4555.

SCE’s Customer Service Call Center operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. SCE representatives are available to answer customers’ questions about bill payments and other inquiries.

Here are some additional tips:

  • SCE will never call and demand immediate payment with the threat of service disconnection.
  • An SCE employee will never ask for money in person. SCE employees always have their ID badge displayed for customers to see.
  • SCE does not accept prepaid cash cards for bill payments from customers.
  • SCE does not conduct credit transactions on weekends or holidays.
  • Never reveal personal information, including credit card, ATM or calling card numbers (or PIN numbers) to anyone.
  • Never use a call-back number provided by an unknown caller to verify billing information.  Instead, call legitimate SCE telephone numbers printed on your utility bill or SCE’s website (SCE.com).
  • If someone calls and requests you leave your residence at a specific time for a utility-related cause, call the police. This could be a burglary attempt set up by the caller.
  • 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 inside or outside your residence.