Homeowners, renters, and businesses in San Diego have been finding themselves on the wrong end of the line with sophisticated phone scammers claiming to be customer service representatives with San Diego Gas and Electric.
Some real customers have been fooled out of thousands of dollars, while others told NBC 7 they relied on their instinct and never took the bait.
Cary Canning Estus is among the latter. When she realized after a few minutes that the person on the other end of the line was deliberately trying to trick her out of almost one-thousand dollars, she hung up.
“I want people to know that it sounded so professional, so professional,” she said.
The person on the other end of line claimed to a be with SDG&E and told Estus her bills were six months overdue and that she owed $998.60.
She says almost everything about the call seemed legitimate.
“They had greetings, they had prompts, they had information saying we are going to record you for customer service,” she explained.
Then, they threatened to shut off her power within 45 minutes if she didn’t pay. That's when the light bulb in her head went on.
“I became very angry, but the weird thing is I am not easily swayed by people, I am not a very trusting person and so immediately I thought this is really odd,” Estus said.
Legitimate SDG&E representative Wes Jones says similar scams have been happening to customers all week.
“They are trying to make a threat and they are using your fear against you,” Jones said.
Even an Executive Producer at NBC 7 got a bogus call. He didn’t answer, but received a voicemail saying SDG&E technicians were on their way to shut off his power unless he called to make a payment.
Jones says he, too, got a scam call about six months ago.
“I said, ‘You know what, I actually work for SDG&E. That is not an address that we have so I know you are trying to scam me,’” Jones said.
Jones said he can recognize scammers immediately, but realizes that not everyone can. He and customers like Estus want to spread the warning about these calls to the community as quickly as possible.
“It was so realistic. I do worry about elderly people, or people who are very trusting," Estus said.
Another tricky move the scammer pull is matching their caller ID to match the power company's real phone number.
So even if it appears to look like SDG&E’s real number, remember, the utility will never call you to make a payment over the phone. Instead, hang up and call the number listed on your bill: 1-800-411-7343.
If you think you’ve been targeted, police ask that you call them and report the incident so they can track activity in the area.