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SCE warns customers of new telephone scam

City News Service | 7/25/2013, 11:53 a.m.

ROSEMEAD, Calif. — Southern California Edison warned its customers today to be aware of a telephone-based scam in which the caller asks for immediate payment for supposedly past-due bills.

Impostors have been calling SCE customers and telling them they must pay past due bills immediately or have their electric service disconnected, according to the utility.

The callers demand payment via a prepaid cash card to cover their tracks.

Other forms of fraud involve customers being asked to buy prepaid debit cards. Callers ask for the debit card number and collect the value deposited on the card.

SCE customers have reported about 800 instances of phone scams this year. About 150 residential, and commercial customers have been victimized by some form of bill scam, with the incidents costing them an average of $800 to $1,000.

“We ask our customers to be alert to these calls that demand immediate payment and threaten service disconnection,” said Marlyn Denter, SCE’s manager of consumer affairs.

Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey said her office and SCE have a common interest in protecting residents from financial crimes.

SCE, which provides electricity for 4.9 million Southern Californians not served by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, advises customers who suspect they are being targeted to ask for the caller’s name, department and business phone number. If the caller refuses to give the information, customers should end the call and report what happened to police or SCE by calling (800) 655-4555.

SCE suggested the following tips for avoiding scams:

  • Never reveal credit card, ATM or calling card numbers (or PIN numbers) to anyone.
  • If someone calls and asks you to leave your home 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.