BBB Alert: Fake utility bill collectors con consumers into payment

scam-alert-pic-150x150BBB serving Central, Coastal, Southwest Texas and the Permian Basin has received reports from CPS Energy in San Antonio that customers are claiming they are being contacted by someone representing the utility company.

These scammers request payment or threaten the customers with disconnection of service.  Last week, CPS Energy received over 100 reports of these types of encounters. Unfortunately, nearly a dozen individuals complied with the scammer’s request.

Residential and commercial customers are receiving phone calls or visits from individuals claiming to be with CPS Energy. They use electric utility terminology to gain customers’ trust.

In some cases, scammers make their phone numbers show up on caller ID as originating from the customer’s utility company. These cons may also create a sense of urgency, especially for businesses, by threatening to shut off power immediately if a payment is not made. Customers who have been contacted in this way should call the police and CPS Energy directly.

Customers should know that CPS Energy employees will:

  • NEVER threaten to disconnect service by phone or in-person.
  • NEVER ask for Green Dot or prepaid cards.
  • NEVER call to request credit card or banking information.
  • NOT ask to enter a home without a request for service or prior notification.
  • ALWAYS wear a badge with a photo and employee number.

BBB wants consumers to be on alert and has this advice to avoid being scammed:

Hang up the phone. Utility representatives should never ask customers to wire money for payment or ask asks customers to pay with a prepaid debit card. Beware if you are asked to provide credit card numbers or banking information over the phone. Hang up and call the utility company directly to verify whether you owe money.

Never give out personal information. Never give out your bank account numbers, date of birth, credit card number or Social Security number to unidentified individuals.

Get informed. Find out what forms of payment your utility company accepts. If the caller is requesting a wire transfer or prepaid debit card payment, that’s a red flag. If you are visited by someone claiming to be a CPS Energy representative, you can call the company’s Security Hotline at (210) 353-4000 to confirm that the individual is an actual CPS Energy employee.

Keep numbers updated. If you are contacted by a utility company employee and asked for personal information, it’s best to hang up and dial the number on your phone bill to be sure you are speaking with a legitimate representative.

Get help. If you receive a phone call to make a wire transfer to pay a utility bill, report the incident immediately to your utility company.