Fontana residents are being plagued by utility bill phone scams, but fortunately, local customers are becoming very adept at identifying and reporting these fraudulent schemes.
Southern California Edison is sharing a list of the top 10 cities in its service area for customer-reported utility bill phone scams, and Fontana is No. 1 on the list this year.
Residents in Fontana and other cities may experience an increase in scam attempts during the upcoming holiday season. The warning came during Utility Scam Awareness Week (Nov. 16-20), a campaign by Utilities United Against Scams to raise awareness about the threat posed by scams.
SCE customers report being victimized for nearly $300,000 so far this year by utility bill phone scams, SCE said in a news release.
While these and similar scams have existed for decades, the COVID-19 pandemic created widespread opportunities for con artists posing as utility representatives to target unsuspecting customers observing stay-at-home precautions. These attempts to steal money, personal information or both have expanded to include the growing use of mobile payment applications.
SCE’s top 10 cities for reporting utility phone scams this year are Fontana, Hemet, Huntington Beach, Irvine, Long Beach, Moreno Valley, Ontario, San Bernardino, Santa Ana, and Whittier.
“Our customers are doing a great job of reporting attempted scams to us, so our company can take steps to help shut down the phone lines these fraudsters use,” says Jill Anderson, SCE’s senior vice president of customer service.
“When the COVID-19 crisis erupted, SCE quickly suspended service disconnections for nonpayment and waived late fees by request for residential and small business customers, which will continue at least until April 2021. We also want our customers to know that any threat of immediate service disconnection without payment by someone claiming to be from SCE should be recognized as a scam attempt.”
Reports from customers to SCE indicate utility bill scams tend to target the elderly, English learners -- or both -- and smaller businesses such as hair salons and auto mechanics, many of which have been struggling since the pandemic started.
----- TO AVOID becoming a victim of a utility bill scam, customers should know that:
• SCE does not have a “disconnection department.”
• SCE will never demand an immediate payment with the threat of disconnection.
• SCE does not accept prepaid cash cards or bitcoins for bill payments. SCE will never ask for your credit card or account information over the phone.
• SCE employees will not demand to collect, or accept, payment in the field.
Customers who believe they are being or have been targeted by a utility bill scam should confirm their account balance or payment status by calling SCE’s customer service center at 1-800-655-4555. If possible, save information such as callback phone numbers or payment instructions and report the attempt by calling SCE’s customer service center, emailing SCE at email@example.com or by completing SCE’s online fraud form.
To learn more about the suspicious behaviors and tactics of utility bill phone scammers, visit sce.com/scamalert.