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Fake SDG&E Calls Defraud Customers

October 5, 2018

By Sandra G. Leon

San Diego residents have received phone calls claiming to be from San Diego Gas & Electric and threatening to cut their power unless a payment is made immediately.

One such call came in to the office of La Prensa San Diego on Tuesday morning, and threatened that power would be turned off in 45 minutes if a payment of $850 was not made.

The caller said that payment had to be made over the phone and could only be made using a prepaid credit card voucher from a local store, including Walgreens, 7/11 convenience stores, or CVS Pharmacies.

That didn’t seem right to Publisher Art Castañares, who then called SDG&E to verify the account status.

A representative from the real San Diego Gas & Electric said the call was a scam, and that the utility company never demands payment by an outgoing phone call, cautioning consumers to instead call the phone number on their bill to verify any requests for payment.

“SDG&E will never proactively contact customers for credit card or other payment information over the phone,” Wesley Jones, SDG&E Communications Manager told La Prensa San Diego this week. “SDG&E distributes a written notice well in advance of shutting off power for nonpayment,” Jones added.

A Chula Vista resident who asked to be identified as “Maggie” received a similar call this week demanding a payment of $495.

After offering to pay using her credit card, Maggie was told she could only use a prepaid credit voucher she could purchase at a local convenience store. The caller stayed on the phone with her while she drove to a nearby store to purchase the voucher. Maggie then gave the voucher information to the caller and the funds were transferred to them.

Maggie told La Prensa this week she was so worried, she drove to the nearest store and bought a prepaid card, then gave them the information.

Maggie called the Chula Vista Police Department to report the scam, but was told there is nothing their police can do for phone crimes.

A quick search on the Internet for the phone number the scam caller at La Prensa San Diego reveals several warnings about the fake SDG&E calls. Several posts detail receiving similar calls to pay outstanding bills or face immediate disconnection.

“Unfortunately, seniors and minority communities are most vulnerable to such scams because they either don’t have quick access to the Internet or they don’t speak English fluently,” said La Prensa’s Publisher, Art Castañares. “We hear about scams all the time but this one almost happened to us, too.”

SDG&E maintains current information about consumer scams on its website, and offers several options for anyone that needs help in paying their bill.

“SDG&E is committed to working with customers that have past-due accounts,” SDGE’s Jones said. “If a customer feels at all suspicious about a call regarding their bill, they should hang up and call SDG&E at 1-800-411-7343.”
Jones also said that utility companies around the country share information on current scams affecting their customers, and they have seen such frauds move around the country throughout the year.

San Diego County residents began reporting complaints about the current phone scam last week.

For more information on current scams affecting SDG&E customers, visit their website at
www.sdge.com.

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