News

Utilities United Against Scams

November 15, 2017

El Paso, TXEl Paso Electric (EPE) is proud to stand with El Paso Water and Texas Gas Service in support of Utilities United Against Scams (UUAS), an association of more than 100 U.S. and Canadian utilities. Today, UUAS observes the second annual Utility Scam Awareness Day, as part of a week-long advocacy and awareness campaign. UUAS is focused on helping to educate customers on how to protect themselves against possible scams.

“Utility scams can be very financially harmful to customers, and sometimes these scams are very sophisticated,” said Kerry Lore, Vice President of Customer Care at El Paso Electric. “That’s why we want to make sure that our community stays informed about the ways they can spot and report possible scams.”

Scammers typically use phone, in-person, and online tactics to target utility customers. They often pose as electric, water, or natural gas company employees, and threaten customers by telling them that their services would be disconnected or shut off if they fail to make an immediate payment – typically using a prepaid card or other non-traceable form of payment.

“We want to make sure we are doing everything we can to protect our customers,” said El Paso Water Vice President of Strategic, Financial and Management Services Marcela Navarrete. “Our customers should know that we don’t make collection calls to anyone, and they should not provide financial information unless they initiate contact with us.” 

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 numbers:

El Paso Electric

Texas (915) 543-5970

New Mexico (575) 526-5555

https://www.epelectric.com/

 

El Paso Water

(915) 594-5500

http://www.epwu.org/

 

 

Texas Gas Service

800-700-2443

https://www.texasgasservice.com/

 

Customers who suspect that they have been victims of fraud, or who feel threatened during contact with one of these scammers, should contact local law enforcement authorities. The Federal Trade Commission’s website is also a good source of information about how to protect personal information.

About Utilities United Against Scams

Visit www.utilitiesunited.org for more information and tips about how to protect yourself from scams or follow along on social media: Twitter @U_U_A_S and Facebook @UtilitiesUnited.