Scammers preying on Southern California Edison (SCE) customers have been focusing recently on the Santa Barbara area, telling victims their bills are overdue and threatening power shut-offs if they don’t pay immediately over the phone via a prepaid debit card, according to Santa Barbara Police Department spokesperson Sgt. Riley Harwood.
“Southern California Edison does not demand payment and threaten customers with disconnection of service in this manner,” Harwood said in a prepared statement. “Customers that receive a suspicious phone call should not provide personal information or payment over the telephone.” Instead, Harwood continued, people should call Edison’s 24/7 call center at 800-655-4555 to report the activity.
According to a statement from the company, Edison has been trying to rein in these swindlers since December 2012, with more than 8,000 of their customers — mostly minorities who own businesses and speak English as a second language — losing more than a combined $250,000. The imposters have been known to call up to 1,500 people per day, often using fake names and employee numbers to appear legitimate. But because most of the calls come from outside of the country, tracing the numbers has proven difficult.
Edison issued some common tips to help customers spot fraudulent calls. For one, SCE only uses 800 numbers when phoning customers. Further, the company doesn’t threaten customers that their service will be terminated for two weeks, doesn’t accept Green Dot or Vanilla brand reloadable debit cards, and doesn’t call customers over the weekend or on holidays.