San Diego Gas & Electric warned its customers Tuesday that a new wave of scammers is targeting them and threatening to cut off their service unless they pay their utility bills immediately with prepaid cards.
The most common tactic reported: Scammers impersonating SDG&E's billing department and asking for payment via Green Dot MoneyPak, a way of sending cash via prepaid or bank debit cards.
In these scams, criminals typically threaten immediate power shutoffs to scare customers into making a quick payment, according to the utility. Once customers purchase prepaid debit cards or make wire transfers based on the scammer's instructions, they're asked to call another phone number to provide the card information, which allows the thieves to steal the money.
It can be especially confusing for victims, according to an SDG&E statement, as the phone number that scammers use might play a recorded message and menu options that mimic SDG&E's official customer service line, which is at (800) 411-7343. When victims call the number provided by scammers, they might hear a recorded message that tells them they're calling SDG&E's business line. They're tnen given different menu options, including one to pay their bill or to report a gas leak or power outage.
Utility officials say SDG&E will never:
- Call a customer to proactively ask for payment information during the call. Customers may receive communications directing them to pay their bill via their MyAccount at sdge.com, use the Billmatrix system or to call and use the automated pay-by-phone option at 800-411-7343
- Request that a customer use prepaid debit cards for payments or cryptocurrencies to pay their bill
- Send emails with an online payment method with a QR code
If a customer is asked for payment over the phone, it's a scam and they should hang up immediately.
Utility officials said that people should only provide financial information by telephone if the customer initiated the call. If asked to do so by a suspected scammer, they should hang up and call SDG&E directly to verify information about the account. Customers can also view their account status, including bills and payments, through SDG&E's mobile app or via sdge.com/myaccount.
"Criminals work year-round to come up with new ways to defraud people," according to a company statement. "SDG&E works hard to make sure customers know what to do if they are targeted. Unfortunately, scams are on the rise, especially during times of uncertainty and crises like with the pandemic."
Victims of fraud are urged to call SDG&E immediately at 800-411-7343 to report it.