In response to growing reports of scams targeting utility customers, Portland General Electric (PGE) is spreading awareness to help customers protect themselves from fraud. PGE estimates scammers have cost its customers at least $8,700 in irrecuperable transactions in the first six weeks of 2022.
Although anyone can be a target of these attacks, scammers often prey on older adults, low-income families, non-English speakers and small business owners. With the right information, customers can learn to detect fraudulent activity.
Scammers impersonating PGE can target customers via phone calls, texts, social media messages, emails or even by knocking on doors. One of the biggest red flags indicating a scam is a threat of immediate disconnection if payment is not made, usually with a prepaid credit card. These cards give the scammer instant access to the victim’s money and are often untraceable. PGE always attempts to contact customers days in advance of a service shutoff and will never ask customers to pay with a prepaid card, Venmo or Zelle.
PGE encourages customers to utilize these additional tips to protect themselves:
- When in doubt, check it out! Contact PGE customer service to verify account information and status if someone threatens immediate disconnection. Use the phone number on your monthly bill or from PGE’s website (800-542-8818) – not a number provided by the suspected scammer.
- Customers will never receive just a single notification providing only one hour or less to respond. A legitimate utility company employee will allow customers to call the office to ask questions and discuss arrangements.
- Although rare, sometimes a scammer pretending to be a PGE employee will come to a customer’s home or business demanding immediate payment on a late bill. Customers should ask to see the visitor’s employee badge and call PGE (800-542-8818) to verify their identity. If customers feel threatened or uncomfortable, they should keep their door closed and call 911 if concerned about their safety.
- Customers should be suspicious if the amount demanded is just under $500 or $1000, especially if they don’t think they owe that much. These are common payment amounts requested by scammers.
- Some scammers use fake bills that look official. If the account and billing information received does not match the account information on portlandgeneral.com, it should be considered highly suspect.
- PGE recommends customers register online or download the mobile app, so they can always check the status of their accounts.
Scammers rely on their victim’s uncertainty and panic over the prospect of a power shutoff to pressure immediate payment. Stop, think and verify.
For more information on tactics used by scammers and how customers can protect themselves, visit portlandgeneral.com/scams [nam04.safelinks.protection.outlook.com].
Source: Portland General Electric