The holidays often bring out the best in us. But they also bring out the worst in utility scammers, looking to bring in some extra cash by taking advantage of others. Reports of these calls tend to pick up steam several times a year, including between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day.
This long-running con targets customers of utilities here in our area and across the nation. Scammers typically call customers, claiming they are overdue on bills and need to buy a gift card or pre-paid credit card of some sort to settle up. Otherwise, they claim, power will be disconnected.
Most recently, the callers have been falsely claiming customers owe money for equipment, such as an electric meter. OPPD customers would not be responsible for such equipment.
The scammers can be quite aggressive and threatening in their tone. Here are some of the other ways they may try to con customers out of money:
- Making claims that customers owe money through text messaging.
- Asking customers to pay using a cash app.
- Using robocall technology to leave a message, asking customers to call back and make a payment.
- Recording and playing back authentic utility messages to sound more convincing for customers who call.
Seasonal scam twist
- Making hollow promises of a gift card in exchange for payment.
OPPD is working in partnership with other local public power utilities to raise awareness among our customers, identify scammers’ trends, and get their phone numbers shut down, when possible. We want our residential and business customers to protect themselves by remembering:
- NONE of these calls are from 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. Authentic utility representatives never request payment via a purchased payment card.
- NEVER give personal or financial information to a stranger during an unsolicited phone call.
- Do NOT allow entrance to such a person, without proper credentials or utility authorization, appearing unannounced at your door.
- ALWAYS ask for identification or verification. If such a person should appear at their door unannounced, claiming to work for the utility, 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 wary of sales pitches from companies claiming to represent or work with OPPD.
Customers who have any questions about service, their account or bill status, or if in need of financial assistance should call us at 402-536-4131 in the Omaha calling area or 877-536-4131 outside of the Omaha area.