SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — PG&E says scammers are targeting vulnerable Californians to steal their money either through calls, texts, emails, or even in-person.
According to the utility, its customer service line has received over 2,700 reports of attempted scams since June 2021. Most of these reports are coming from San Francisco, where 214 scams were reported. Santa Rosa has had 152 scams reported, and then Bakersfield and Fresno are also seeing high numbers of reports.
The most common scam appears to be the impersonator demanding immediate payment via a pre-paid debit card, threatening a utility shutoff to residents.
“While scammers will frequently target more vulnerable populations, we want to remind all of our customers of the importance of being vigilant, and to provide our customers with the information and tools they need to avoid being the victim of a payment scam,” said Matt Foley, PG&E senior corporate security specialist. “Remember, PG&E will never ask for your financial information over the phone or via email. If you receive a call or email that demands immediate payment, please call our customer service line or visit PGE.com to access your account details.”
PG&E provided the following signs of a potential scam to look out for:
- Threat to disconnect: Scammers may aggressively demand immediate payment for an alleged past due bill. If this occurs, customers should hang up the phone, delete the email, or shut the door. Customers with delinquent accounts receive an advance disconnection notification, typically by mail and included with their regular monthly bill.
- Request for immediate payment or a prepaid card: Scammers may instruct the customer to purchase a prepaid card then call them back supposedly to make a bill payment. PG&E reminds customers that they should never purchase a prepaid card to avoid service disconnection or shutoff. PG&E does not specify how customers should make a bill payment and offers a variety of ways to pay a bill, including accepting payments online, by phone, automatic bank draft, mail or in person at an authorized PG&E neighborhood payment center.
- Refund or rebate offers: Scammers may say that your utility company overbilled you and owes you a refund, or that you are entitled to a rebate. Again, customers should immediately hang up and call PG&E Customer Service to confirm details.
- “Spoofing” Authentic Numbers: Scammers are now able to create authentic-looking 800 numbers which appear on your phone display. The numbers don’t lead back to PG&E if called back, however, so if you have doubts or have seen any of the above warning signs of a scam, hang up and call PG&E at 1-800-743-5000. If customers ever feel that they are in physical danger, they should call 911.
Anyone who may have been a victim of fraud should contact local law enforcement.