The Coast News Group

New wave of scammers target SDG&E customers

REGION — San Diego Gas & Electric today is urging customers to be wary of calls from scammers.

The scammers, who target the elderly, threaten to turn off power unless the victim offers up immediate payment for a past due bill.

The utility “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,” an SDG&E statement says.

SDG&E said the scammers were targeting the most vulnerable customers, including elderly who require electricity like assisted oxygen therapy to meet critical medical needs.

The current tactics used by scammers include impersonating SDG&E’s billing department and asking for payment using Green Dot MoneyPak, a way of sending cash via prepaid or bank debit cards. SDG&E does not ask customers to pay using methods such as Green Dot MoneyPak.

Scammers try to convince people to load prepaid or bank debit cards at grocery stores. Victims are told to pay by this method in order to avoid service disconnection. It can be especially confusing for victims, as the phone number scammers are currently using is a 1-800 number — in this case 1-800-262-3917 — with a recorded message and menu options that mimic SDG&E’s official customer service line, which is 1-800-411-7343.
When victims call this number, they hear a recorded message that tells them that they are calling SDG&E’s business line. They are given different menu options, including one to pay their bill or to report a gas leak or power outage.

If scammers don’t get a person on the phone directly, they may leave an automated message reporting imminent shutdown of power and leave the number to call back and pay.

Due to the financial impact the coronavirus is having on customers who have been laid-off or seen their hours cut back, SDG&E is suspending service disconnections for nonpayment until further notice.

SDG&E advises to “hang up and call directly at 1-800-411-7343 if you want to verify information about your account.”