More and more, scammers are targeting victims digitally
The stories of Arizonans falling victim to utility scams are heartbreaking. As professional con artists evolve their tactics to steal, it’s more important than ever for customers to learn about scams and how to avoid them. That’s why Arizona Public Service (APS), Salt River Project (SRP), Southwest Gas, Tucson Electric Power (TEP) and UniSource Energy Services have united to support International Fraud Awareness Week (Nov. 12-18) and recognize the eighth annual Utility Scam Awareness Day, which falls on Wednesday, Nov. 15.
Nationwide, utilities have received increased reports of scammers contacting customers digitally while posing as utility workers to access financial information or obtain immediate payment by threatening service shutoffs.
Here are some of the digital ways scammers may contact you:
- Sponsored ads on search engines that lead to an identical, but fake, utility bill payment page.
- QR codes that scammers link to a false utility payment page.
- Texts from a scammer claiming to be a utility representative, with a link to an impostor website.
Common signs of a scam:
- Threat to disconnect. Scammers often contact customers claiming their utility bill is past due and service will be shut off unless payment is made right away.
- Demand for immediate payment. Scammers often pressure customers to make payments immediately or face disconnection.
- Request for a prepaid card. Con artists often instruct victims to purchase a prepaid card such as Green Dot, MoneyPak or Vanilla at a nearby store, and then call them back. The scammer then asks for the card and PIN number, which grants instant access to the card’s funds. In just a few seconds, the victim’s money is gone.
Ways to Protect Yourself:
- Never purchase a prepaid card. Arizona utilities never require payment via a prepaid debit card, gift card or form of cryptocurrency.
- Don’t fall for threats. Slow down. Scammers typically try to rush customers by threatening immediate utility shut-off. Customers with delinquent accounts receive multiple notifications well in advance – never a single notice one hour or less before disconnection.
- Call your utility to verify. If there is ever a question about the validity of an email, website or person claiming to be a utility representative, call your utility directly to confirm. Never use the call-back phone number provided by the email, website or person in question to verify billing or account information. Also, some phone scammers can mirror the actual name and number of your utility on your caller ID – a technique known as ‘spoofing’. It might look real, but don’t fall for it.
- Call 911. Customers should call 911 if they ever feel they are in physical danger.
Utilities United Against Scams (UUAS), a consortium of more than 150 U.S. and Canadian electric, water and natural gas utilities and their respective trade associations, continues to raise customer awareness of common scams and new scam tactics used by utility impostors. Through its work and with the help of customer reporting, UUAS has successfully helped to take more than 13,000 toll-free numbers used by scammers out of operation as of 2022. Visit UtilitiesUnited.org for more information and tips on how customers can protect themselves from impostor utility scams. Follow along with UUAS on Twitter and Facebook , and join the conversation by using #StopScams.
Arizona Public Service: APS serves approximately 1.4 million homes and businesses in 11 of Arizona’s 15 counties, and is a leader in delivering affordable, clean and reliable energy in the Southwest. To learn more about available support, visit aps.com/support or call the APS Customer Experience Center. Advisors are available to support in English and Spanish 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 602- 371-7171 (metro Phoenix) or 800-253-9405 (other areas). Visit aps.com/scams to learn more.
Salt River Project: SRP is a community-based, not-for-profit public power utility and the largest electricity provider in the greater Phoenix metropolitan area, serving approximately 1.1 million customers. SRP provides water to about half of the Valley’s residents, delivering more than 244 billion gallons of water (750,000 acre-feet) each year, and manages a 13,000-square-mile watershed that includes an extensive system of reservoirs, wells, canals and irrigation laterals.
Southwest Gas: Southwest Gas Corporation is a dynamic energy company committed to exceeding the expectations of our over two million customers throughout Arizona, California and Nevada by providing safe and reliable service while innovating sustainable energy solutions to fuel our communities’ growth. We will never call or appear at your door to demand immediate payment or ask you to pay your bill using prepaid cards, cryptocurrencies or third-party payment apps. For more information about how to identify a Southwest Gas employee or contractor, visit swgas.com/safety.
Tucson Electric Power and UniSource Energy Services: TEP serves more than 445,000 electric customers in Southern Arizona. UniSource provides natural gas and electric service to more than 268,000 customers in Northern and Southern Arizona. More scam prevention tips and ways to identify field employees are available on the TEP and UniSource websites. TEP, UniSource and their Tucson, Arizona-based parent company, UNS Energy Corporation, are subsidiaries of Fortis Inc., which owns utilities that serve more than 3 million customers across Canada and in the United States and the Caribbean.
APS: Katie Conner, Katie.Conner@aps.com, 480-708-1288
SRP: Jennifer Schuricht, Jennifer.Schuricht@srpnet.com, 602-625-5023
Southwest Gas: Amy Washburn, Amy.Washburn@SWgas.com, 602-395-4090
TEP and UniSource: Joseph Barrios, email@example.com, 520-884-3725