NewEnergyNews: ORIGINAL REPORTING: Utilities Ally To Fight Bill Scammers

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    Founding Editor Herman K. Trabish

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    Wednesday, February 23, 2022

    ORIGINAL REPORTING: Utilities Ally To Fight Bill Scammers

    CA Utilities Join Forces to Thwart Growing Utility Bill Scams

    Herman Trabish, November 16, 2021 (California Current)

    Editor’s note: This is an on-going joint utility effort that can’t do much to slow customers’ rising electricity costs

    Customers’ increased reliance on home utility services has caused a rise in scammers preying on them and in increasingly nefarious ways, according to California’s investor-owned utilities and public utilities. Pacific Gas & Electric and Southern California Edison customers were cheated out of more than $1 million recently. San Diego Gas & Electric customers lost half a million dollars to scammers since 2020.

    The rising numbers are “just the tip of the iceberg” because so many scams go unreported, PG&E spokesperson Jason King told Current. “During September and October, the number of attempted scams reported to PG&E increased by 65%,” King said. For July through September, there were 7,853 reports, and 468 customers were victimized, paying over $370,166 to scammers, he added. Customers “are being targeted by scammers impersonating utilities, typically online, in-person and by telephone.”

    Scams have long been a concern, but Southern California Edison is receiving increased reports of attempted and successful scams, SCE spokesperson Ron Gales agreed. This year, “customers reported more than $590,000 in fraud, surpassing the $426,000 reported lost to scammers in all of last year, he said.

    Because of COVID-19, more people are working, studying, or following social distancing guidance at home. Also, more customers are behind on their bills so they more readily comply without checking when scammers call threatening disconnection due to late payment.

    Over the past two years, SDG&E, the smallest of California’s IOU majors, received 806 reports of scams from customers with estimated losses totaling about $513,100, spokesperson Helen Gao reported. Prominent California public utilities Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and Sacramento Municipal Utility District reported the same trend. To combat scams, both regularly work at customer education through press releases, social media posts, and other channels, their spokespersons wrote in emails to Current. The utilities highlighted the problem as part of the sixth annual Utility Scam Awareness Dayclick here for more

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