El Paso Electric (EPE), El Paso Water and Texas Gas Service team up to raise awareness and educate customers on scams through the sixth annual Utility Scam Awareness Week.
Initiated by the Utilities United Against Scams, or UUAS, the week-long scam awareness initiative, ‘End the Call. End the Scam.’ focuses on educating customers of the tactics scammers use to steal their money or personal information.
“Working alongside El Paso Electric and El Paso Water allows us to raise awareness about scams. We want to make sure all of our customers receive the value in services they expect without falling victim to fraud,” said Texas Gas Service Director of Customer Service Callie Sneddon.
As scammers target customers of all three utilities that serve El Paso, the tactics used on customers have similarities.
“For El Paso Electric, we have seen scams target customers in a wide variety of ways ranging from traditional phone scams to malicious emails and texts phishing for personal information,” shares EPE Vice President of Customer Care and Corporate Communications Cheryl Mele. “Scammers today are not just interested in stealing money, but also personal information making all customers vulnerable to
Scammers typically utilize phone, online, text and in-person forms of communication to target utility customers. Scammers can pose as electric, water or natural gas company employees, or third-party representatives for a utility, and usually threaten customers with service disconnection if they do not immediately make payment via a prepared debit card or other non-traceable forms of payment.
“EPWater employees are always in uniform, carry a photo ID and business card, and travel in a marked vehicle when they visit your home,” said Marcela Navarrete, Vice President of Strategic, Financial and Management Services. “We will never demand entrance and we will not ask for your social security number.”
Signs of Potential Scam Activity:
- Threat to disconnect: Scammers may aggressively tell the customer his or her utility bill is past due and service will be disconnected if a payment is not made – usually within less than an hour
- Request for immediate payment: Scammers may instruct the customer to purchase a prepaid card – widely available at retail stores – then call them back supposedly to make a bill payment to his or her utility company.
- Request for prepaid card: When the customer calls back, the caller asks the customer for the prepaid card’s number, which grants the scammer instant access to the card’s funds, and the victim’s money is gone.
How Customers Can Protect Themselves:
- Customers should never purchase a prepaid card to avoid service disconnection or shutoff. Utilities do not specify how customers should make a bill payment and they offer a variety of ways to pay a bill.
- If someone threatens immediate disconnection or shutoff of service, customers should hang up the phone, delete the email, or shut the door, and call their utility’s Customer Service Department to inquire about their account.
- If customers suspect someone is trying to scam them, they should hang up, delete the email, or shut the door. They should then call their utility company at the number on their monthly bill or the company’s website, not the phone number the scammer provides. If customers ever feel that they are in physical danger, they should call 911.
Important customer service contact information:
El Paso Electric | Texas (915) 543-5970 | New Mexico (575) 526-5555 | firstname.lastname@example.org
El Paso Water | (915) 594-5500
Texas Gas Service | 800-700-2443
Customers who suspect that they have been victims of fraud, or who feel threatened during contact with one of these scammers, should immediately stop any communication or contact with the scammer.
“It is important that customers also call their utilities to check on the status of their accounts if they eve feel uncertain about the authenticity of a call, communication, or interaction with a utility worker,” officials added.
Utilities United Against Scams is a consortium of over 100 U.S. and Canadian electric, water and natural gas utilities, working together to educate consumer about utility-related scams.