San Diego Gas & Electric reminded customers Tuesday to be vigilant looking out for scammers threatening service disconnections if payments are not made immediately.
According to SDG&E, the ruse most often includes a caller posing as a utility collections employee. Victims are told their account is delinquent and that a technician will arrive within the hour to shut off their electricity if they do not pay the past due amount immediately. Victims are asked to pay with non-traceable Bitcoin, payment apps such as Zelle, Green Dot debit cards, or other non-traditional forms of payment that SDG&E does not use.
Top targets of utility impersonators include limited-English speakers, the elderly and small businesses — particularly restaurants.
Last month, Mark Cafferty, president and CEO of the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation, received calls from a SDG&E impersonator who indicated his gas and electric service was about to be shut off due to non- payment. The number that appeared on his caller ID was falsely presented as SDG&E’s customer service number.
“Business both large and small must remain vigilant. Because of the sophistication of the fraud, an unsuspecting, well-intentioned business entity could easily fall into this trap and the losses are sometimes staggering,” he said.
According to the utility, earlier this year, a local business incurred a significant financial loss when the impersonator kept telling the business that its electronic payment did not go through. The fraudster capitalized on the confusion, and the business made payments three times before realizing the scam.
The utility company said in a statement it will never:
— Call to demand immediate payments be made over the phone with the threat of immediate service disconnection. It has several options for payment assistant programs at www.sdge.com/residential/pay-bill/get-payment-bill- assistance/assistance-programs;
— Ask customers to pay using digital payment apps or cryptocurrencies. The only bill payment options SDG&E uses are MyAccount, a branch office location, an authorized payment location or BillMatrix, which accepts payment with a credit card via phone.
Additionally, if customers are ever uncertain about their account status, they can call SDG&E or look up their bill and payment history at sdge.com/MyAccount or by calling SDG&E’s customer service number, 800-411-7343.
— City News Service