California

Con artists’ scam costs California utility customers $300,000

Gordon Bronnie, who lives in Rancho Cucamonga, is well-suited for business. He sells and rents cars, owns vending machines, and runs two water stores.

But Bronnie recently said, “I wasn’t smart this week. I can’t believe I fell into this.”

Bronnie, Monday, November 23, became one of the latest victims of a scam targeting Southern California Edison customers. Jill Anderson, senior vice president of customer service at SCE, said that callers impersonating utility employees would power unpaid invoices unless immediate payments were made with a reloadable debit card. He said he stole about $ 300,000 from 433 customers this year, threatening to shut it down. ..

Victims buy a debit card at a convenience store and read the serial number on the back of the scammer, and the card leaks money. Money is lost forever and it is almost impossible to track a phone call.

However, SCE does not make sudden calls to threaten shutoffs and does not accept debit or gift cards as payments, Anderson said. Currently, due to the coronavirus pandemic, non-payment disconnections for SCE’s housing and businesses have been suspended until at least April 2021.

“The fact that our customers are the victims of these scammers is really annoying,” Anderson said. “People are using their customers, especially in this era of global crisis when people are struggling to achieve their goals.”

SCE has received thousands of complaints about the scam and recently published a list of cities in its area. From this list, most customers have inquired about mysterious calls this year. Fontana is at the top of the top 10 list with 425 complaints, followed by Long Beach, Hemet, Ontario, Irvine, Santa Ana, San Bernardino, Huntington Beach, Moreno Valley and Whittier.

According to Anderson, scammers tend to target older customers, small businesses with potential high takes, and people whose native language is not English. The average loss is $ 700. She said the maximum amount was $ 16,000.

SCE has worked with law enforcement agencies to shut down some phone numbers, but Anderson admitted that it only seems to slow down fraudsters who quickly register new phone numbers.

68-year-old Bronnie shared his story in the hope that others would learn from his $ 1,500 loss.

He received a call on Monday from someone claiming to be from SCE and said Bronnie had ignored the letter he was supposed to receive about the new meter. The crew came out to install the meter, but he had to pay a $ 500 deposit that would be returned within 30 days. But if he doesn’t pay, the power will be reduced.

Brownie said he would pay as soon as the invoice arrived, so he felt something was wrong. Nevertheless, he followed the fraudster’s instructions. “My electricity was supposed to be cut off in two hours, so I can’t do that. If I had more time, I would have thought a little more.”

SCE scams are a version of a common ploy that relies on such horror to release a person’s BS detector. For example, a person claiming to come from the IRS or law enforcement agency states that he has an arrest warrant for unpaid taxes or lack of jury duty, and the warrant disappears only by paying a “fine” immediately.

Others have been fooled by so-called grandparents scams, and sobbing callers claiming to be grandchildren say he or she had a car accident or was arrested and needed to send money to a place to stay out of jail. say.

The scammer was left on the phone, so Bronnie went to a convenience store and loaded a $ 500 debit card. Bronnie read the fraudster’s serial number and was relieved that the electricity wouldn’t stop.

The scammers were able to involve Bronnie again. They called and said they needed $ 1,000 each for the meters of the two businesses. Broney bought two more $ 500 debit cards and read the serial number again.

The scammer then called again and said he still had to pay for the meter for the second store.

“Then I called Edison just to confirm it, and they told me it was a scam,” Bronnie said.

Bronnie then called the police. The policeman called the number Bronnie gave him, but the fraudster hung up.

“I can’t believe they’ll run away with this. I wish there was a way to track those phone numbers,” he said.

According to Anderson, one of the reasons customers are fooled is that they are unfamiliar with SCE’s collection procedures for overdue claims.

Customers usually receive the first letter, followed by a second letter showing the disconnection timeline. SCE offers payment plans and accepts payments by automatic bank withdrawals, checks, and telephone banking information.

“Customers always get multiple notifications,” Anderson said.

Customers with invoice questions can attempt potential fraud by calling 800-655-4555 and emailing SCE at csinfogov @ sce.com or filling out the SCE online fraud form. Can be reported.

Bronnie’s advice to those who receive a call requesting money is simple:

“Please check it first,” he said.

Fraud detection

This is the top 10 cities in which Southern California Edison customers inquired about potential fraudulent calls in 2020. Not all of these customers have been sacrificed.

Fontana / 425

Long beach / 376

Hemet / 332

Ontario / 278

Irvine / 275

Santa Ana / 275

San Bernardino / 194

Huntington Beach / 184

Moreno Valley / 166

Whittier / 152

Con artists’ scam costs California utility customers $300,000 Source link Con artists’ scam costs California utility customers $300,000

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