By Anna Buss
The West Covina Police Department is warning residents and business owners of a utility scam targeting customers of Southern California Edison.
This latest e-mail fraud follows a recent utility phone scam where more than 2,000 SCE customers were targeted, according to an SCE press release.
Also, police reported that more than 300 customers have fallen victim to the scam, many of them mom-and-pop business owners and entrepreneurs whose first language is not English.
Police say imposters claiming to be from SCE are calling its customers demanding immediate payment for allegedly overdue electricity bills. Police report the scam artists claim the customer’s electric service will be disconnected unless immediate payment is made through a prepaid cash card or debit card.
“SCE never uses high-pressure tactics to collect or demand money for past due bills,” warns Marlyn Denter, SCE’s manager of Consumer Affairs. “We are not in the business of threatening our customers with the immediate termination of service.” Denter spoke on-camera with CCN’s TK Trinidad about this scam.
SCE reports the average loss for SCE business customers in 2013 was between $800 and $1,000; residential customers lost an average of between $300 and $500. Overall, the total losses so far for SCE customers, are estimated at $225,000. Police also say some SCE customers have reported receiving suspicious e-mails that look like utility bills.
SCE officials confirm this is not a company policy and is a scam, and that they do not demand immediate payments for past due bills by phone or by e-mail. In both scenarios, the scammers often request personal information.
“We ask our customers to be alert to these scams that demand immediate payment and threaten service disconnection,” said Denter.
Police say SCE customers who receive suspicious e-mails regarding their bills should never click on any links or attachments, and never send a reply. Customers should also delete the e-mail. If a customer has been victimized, they can report it online to the U.S. Department of Justice’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force at StopFraud.gov.
Authorities encourage SCE customers suspecting a fraudulent phone call to ask for the caller’s name, department and business phone number. If the caller refuses to provide this information, customers should terminate the call and report the incident immediately to local police.
In either situation, customers can also contact SCE at 800-655-4555800-655-4555.