Reports of phone calls from scammers, claiming to represent Omaha Public Power District, continue to climb. If past trends hold true, the calls will pick up speed over the Thanksgiving holiday and through the end of the year.
OPPD is working in partnership with local public power utilities to raise awareness among our customers and identify scammers’ trends. They have targeted utility customers across the region and the nation for years, with several variations.
Generally, callers claim customers are overdue on bills and need to buy a gift card or Visa card, call them back and make a payment. If they don’t, scammers claim, power will be disconnected. Sometimes, they falsely claim customers owe money for equipment, such as a meter. Often, their tone is aggressive and threatening.
One new twist we’ve heard about in other regions is that scammers are making hollow promises of a gift card in exchange for payment. A newer twist in our area is that scammers are using robocalls to leave a message, asking customers to call back and make a payment. When customers do, they may even hear an authentic utility message, which scammers have recorded to sound more convincing. Do not be fooled.
OPPD stresses these callers do NOT work for the utility.
Our call center representatives would never cold-call a customer demanding immediate payment. If customers were truly overdue on their bills to the point where service could be disconnected, they would receive written notice first.
Keep in mind, scammers often “spoof” OPPD numbers, making it look like the call is coming from the utility. For this reason, we advise customers who receive a questionable phone call from a legitimate-looking phone number to hang up and call OPPD directly. This way they can be sure they are speaking with an actual OPPD employee.
In addition, OPPD advises residential and business customers:
- NEVER give personal or financial information to a stranger during an unsolicited telephone call.
- If such a person should appear unannounced at your door claiming to work for the utility, do NOT allow them to enter.
- ALWAYS ask for identification or verification. OPPD employees always carry identification. Failure to produce identification should always be a tip-off to the customer that something is wrong.
- Be wary of sales pitches from companies claiming to represent or work with OPPD.
- For questions about products, services, payments, or your account in general, always call the utility directly. Within Omaha, the number is 402-536-4131. Outside of Omaha, customers may also call 1-877-536-4131.
Scammers have been steadily stepping up efforts in recent years, targeting both residential and business customers.
In 2017, OPPD logged 514 reports from customers who had received calls from scammers. In 2018, that number jumped to 714, with 28 customers paying them.
So far in 2019, we’ve logged nearly 1,300 reports from our customers of scam phone calls. Of those, 21 paid the scammers.