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Scammers target PG&E customers

By Tracy Salcedo

PG& E has issued a warning to its customers: Beware the scammers. Following a general uptick in billing and payment scams during the pandemic, the utility company recently sent out a notice advising customers of ways to determine whether someone claiming to be calling from PG& E is legitimate, and how to respond when it becomes clear the call is nefarious.

“Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, scammers have gotten deceptively creative with increased calls, texts, emails, and in-person tactics, and are contacting electric and gas customers asking for immediate payment to avoid service disconnection,” the company states in a written alert issued March 17. “These impostors can be convincing and often target those who are most vulnerable, including senior citizens and lowincome communities.”

PG& E says customers should know the company would “never contact a customer for the first time within one hour of a service disconnection.” In other words, if someone calls and says pay now or we’ll disconnect you, it’s a scam.

Additionally, the utility company never requests customers make payments with “a prepaid debit card, gift card, any form of cryptocurrency, or third-party digital payment mobile applications.”

Some of the tactics scammers are currently employing include: Alleging a customer has a past due bill and will be disconnected if they don’t pay immediately; Requesting a customer purchase a prepaid card and then call back to make a payment; Offering a rebate or refund for an overbilling; Using authentic-looking 800 numbers that don’t connect directly to PG& E when called back.

If approached by someone using any of these tactics, whether online, over the phone, or in person, customers should “delete it, hang up, or shut the door.”

To further protect yourself from potential scams, PG& E recommends adding a trusted family member or friend to the account so there is a second line of defense. If you are victimized by a scammer, report the crime to law enforcement.

PG& E expects scams will be an ongoing threat. “Scammers are constantly changing their tactics and tricks, so awareness is more important than ever to keep our customers safe,” said Melisa Munoz, the company’s contact center operations director. “If an email, visit to your home, or phone call doesn’t feel right, don’t fall for it. … And, as a reminder, PG& E will never ask for your financial information over the phone or via email.”

If you have questions about the status of your account, are concerned you are being scammed, or otherwise need assistance, the company recommends visiting and checking your account for alerts, or calling customer service at (800) 743-5000.