November 18, 2020 (San Diego) -- As part of Utility Scam Awareness Week (Nov.16-20), SDG&E is joining electric, water and natural gas utilities across the country to educate customers about utility imposters who prey on people’s reliance on essential services to cheat them out of money. To date, in 2020 alone, SDG&E customers have reported over 25,000 scams. That translates into nearly 80 per day.
“Scammers target our customers year-round, but we want everyone to be even more vigilant during these unprecedented times, as new waves of scams have emerged amid the COVID-19 pandemic. With more people staying at home or possibly facing financial difficulty, scammers try to take advantage of the situation,” a statement from SDG&E indicates.
One common tactic is for the scammer to pose as an employee with a government or state agency and claim they will turn off utility service unless they get immediate payment. Another tactic involves 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. Known as the "Pay-by-Phone" scam, or "Green Dot" scam, criminals typically threaten immediate power shut-offs to scare customers into making an immediate payment. Once customers purchase prepaid debit cards, or make wire transfers based on the scammer's instructions, they are 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, as the phone number scammers use may play a recorded message and menu options that mimic SDG&E's official customer service line, which is 1-800-411-7343. When victims call the number provided by scammers, they may hear a recorded message that tells them they are calling SDG&E's business line. They are given different menu options, including paying their bills or reporting a gas leak or power outage.
Customers should know that SDG&E does not ask customers to pay using methods such as Green Dot MoneyPak or cryptocurrency. Additionally, SDG&E will never proactively contact customers requesting their credit card, banking or other financial information or threaten immediate disconnection. Even if you have a past-due balance that needs to be paid, we will always provide past-due notices in writing before shutting off service and offer payment plan options. Additionally, SDG&E has implemented protections for customers who are struggling to pay their bills during this time. These protections include flexible payment plans for up to 12 months, suspending disconnections for nonpayment (for residential and small businesses), and waiving late payment fees for businesses. (We do not charge residential customers late payment fees).
If you are a caretaker for an older adult or have elderly relatives or friends, please warn them about utility scams and urge them to follow the tips below to avoid becoming a victim.
SDG&E Will NOT:
- 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 1-800-411-7343.
- Request that a customer use prepaid debit cards for payments or cryptocurrencies (i.e. Bitcoin) to pay their bill.
- Send emails with an online payment method with a QR code.
- If a caller claims to work for SDG&E and asks for payment over the phone, it is a scam.
- Only provide financial information by telephone if you made the call.
- Hang up and call us directly at 1-800-411-7343 if you want to verify information about your account. You can also view your account status, including bills and payments, through our mobile app or via sdge.com/myaccount.
If you believe you might have been a victim of fraud, please call us immediately at 1-800-411-7343 to report it. You can also follow these additional tips to avoid becoming a victim of utility scams.