Omaha Public Power District is receiving an increased number of customer reports of scam phone calls the past several days. Today, we’ve received around 125 reports of these calls. Wednesday, we received 150 reports.
And today, we’re hearing about a new tactic. Scammers are reaching out to some customers via text messages. Either way, their goal is the same – to fool customers and steal their money.
Scam calls pick up several times a year, and the numbers seem to be increasing since the pandemic began. It’s happening all across the country. Callers try to take advantage of customers by falsely identifying themselves as utility employees and claiming customers have overdue bills. In some cases, they claim customers need to pay for equipment, such as meters. They often use “spoofing” technology so that the calls appear to be legitimate.
The callers try to get their targets to give up credit, debit or checking account information over the phone to make a payment, or to purchase a pre-paid debit card, such as a Green Dot card, from a nearby store. With purchased cards, they instruct customers to call them back with the numbers. They threaten to disconnect service soon if customers do not pay.
Today, we are getting new reports of scammers texting customers, as well. In these cases, they’re demanding payment via a bar code.
OPPD stresses that none of these people demanding payments or financial information works for the utility. The utility never cold calls customers demanding payment. And it does not accept payment in the form of pre-paid debit cards.
We continue to advise 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 is a tip-off to the customer that something is wrong.
- Be suspicious of any emails you receive regarding your utility bill if you have not opted in to online communications from OPPD.
- Never provide personal information via email, and do not click on suspicious links.
- Do not respond to text messages seeking personal information or utility bill payments. Do not click on links within such messages.
- 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.