January 24, 2019 UPDATE
Omaha Public Power District is receiving increased reports of scam phone calls, yet again, today. And now, we’re learning about a new tactic they’re using. Some customers say scammers are asking them to email them credit or debit card numbers or bank account information. This is not how OPPD operates.
Please do not email financial information. If you receive such a call, hang up, and call OPPD directly at 402-536-4131 or toll-free at 1-877-536-4131. More information and guidance follows.
January 18, 2019
Omaha Public Power District is receiving an increased number of calls today from our customers, regarding scam phone calls. As of 10:30 a.m., we’ve already received 40 reports of aggressive callers, trying to con customers out of money. And that number is expected to climb.
Scammers have been targeting utility customers across the country for years, now, and the calls pick up steam several times a year. Today’s uptick may be related to publicity surrounding the pending snow storm for our area. We’ve seen upticks, previously, during or after a severe weather event. Callers may be trying to capitalize while customers are feeling vulnerable.
Be aware, the scammers use “spoofing” technology so that caller identification appears to show a legitimate OPPD phone number. They pretend to be utility employees and aggressively demand payments from customers that they claim are overdue. Sometimes, they falsely claim customers need to pay for equipment, such as meters.
The scammers’ end game is to get credit, debit or checking account information from customers, or to get them to purchase a pre-paid debit card from a nearby store and relay those numbers. They usually threaten to disconnect service if customers do not pay. In a new twist, some customers have reported that scammers have requested they email the information. The email address may even contain the letters “o-p-p-d.” Don’t let that fool you. The account is not connected to the utility.
OPPD stresses that none of these people demanding payments or financial information works for the utility. The utility never cold-calls customers, demanding immediate payment.
Scam calls on the rise
The troubling trend does not appear to be slowing down.
In 2018, OPPD logged a total of 714 reports from customers who had received phone calls from scammers. Sadly, 28 of those customers paid the scammers. That compares with 480 reports of scam calls in 2017, where 10 customers paid the scammers.
OPPD advises customers:
- Never give personal or financial information to a stranger during an unsolicited phone call.
- If such a person should appear unannounced at one’s door, claiming to work for the utility, do not allow them inside. Always ask for identification or verification. OPPD employees always carry identification. Failure to produce identification should be a tip-off that something is wrong.
- Never turn off security systems for any reason if a stranger asks. Any customer who receives such a request should call law enforcement immediately.
Customers with questions about making a payment, or about their account in general, should always call OPPD directly. Within Omaha, the number is 402-536-4131.
Customers in our rural areas may talk with their local offices during business hours, as well.
Outside of Omaha, customers should call 1-877-536-4131.