BBB CCIE Action Line: Consumer receives scam call impostering PG&E

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Q: I got a phone call from “PG&E” saying that my electrical power is going to be shut off. They explained to me that I hadn’t paid my utilities bill for 3 months. I was scared about losing power, so I called my bank and wired them the money they wanted. I obviously know it was a trick now, but at the time I truly believed I was going to lose my power. Now they won’t stop calling me. I’m a senior citizen and know I’m a target for these sorts of scams, so what should I do to avoid this kind of ordeal in the future?

A: Sorry to hear that you fell for their trick and lost money in the process. If you haven’t already, I would recommend that you contact your bank and let them know about your situation, and how you should proceed with protecting your information and savings. When it comes to this kind of scam, known as “Utility Scams,” BBB recommends that you familiarize yourself with these tips:

How you can spot this scam

• Prepaid debit cards and wire transfers are a red flag. If a caller specifically asks for payment by prepaid debit card or wire transfer, this is a huge warning sign. Utility companies will often accept a check or credit card.

• Pressure to pay immediately. Scammers will press for immediate payment and may try high pressure tactics to intimidate consumers into giving them personal and banking information.

Ways to protect yourself against this scam

• Call customer service. If you feel pressured for immediate action by a caller, hang up the phone and call the customer service number on your utility bill. This will ensure you are speaking to a real representative. Never give your personal or banking information to an unverified or unsolicited caller.

• Never allow anyone into your home unless you have scheduled an appointment or reported a problem. Also, ask utility employees for proper identification before letting them enter.

Always remember that PG&E will never ask you for financial information over the phone. Report scams to PG&E by calling 1-800-743-5000 or call their customer service line at 1-833-500-7226.

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