Yesterday, March 1, Oncor joined utilities across the country in kicking off the annual Utility Scam Awareness Week, which aims to raise awareness of common imposter utility scams and how customers can protect themselves. Reports of scam attempts have increased across Texas in the aftermath of the winter storms. Oncor urges customers to familiarize themselves with common scam tactics and remember that Oncor will never contact you by phone, text or in-person to demand payment or threaten you with power disconnection.
“As Texans work together to rebuild after the recent winter storms, bad actors are working overtime and using sophisticated techniques to take advantage of especially vulnerable families and small businesses. It should be an immediate red flag to customers if anyone contacts them requesting payment on behalf of Oncor,” said Oncor spokesperson Jen Myers.
“Customers can always call Oncor (888.313.6862) to confirm an employee’s identity, but if they fear for their safety, please call 911 immediately. We take imposters and scam attempts very seriously, and work in tandem with local law enforcement to investigate and prosecute anyone who violates the law and the public’s trust.”
SCAMS AND TACTICS TO LOOK OUT FOR
- Fraudulent contact information: Scammers often use email, website addresses, phone numbers and message recordings that look and sound authentic. Those impersonating Oncor may claim that the phone number they are using is different than the number on a customer’s regular utility bill due to telework status. While phone scams account for 75 percent of all imposter scams, email or text communication may also be attempted.
- Door-to-door imposters: Scammers may claim they are “responding to reports of scammers in the neighborhood,” “are on site to perform unscheduled work that requires payment,” or many other excuses to gain customers’ money or personal information.
- Disconnection threat: Scammers may aggressively tell a customer his or her utility bill is past due and service will be disconnected if a large payment is not made – typically using a prepaid debit card or another non-refundable form of payment.
- Meter payment: The imposter may instruct a customer to use cash or quickly buy a prepaid debit card to cover the cost of a new meter, a meter upgrade or some other form of unscheduled on-site work.
- Information Request: The scammer will insist that a recent payment encountered a system glitch and was not completed, and then asks the customer to make a false payment or otherwise provide personal account information.
HOW TO PROTECT YOURSELF
- Do not give out credit card information or purchase prepaid cards: Oncor will never ask to collect money to avoid service disconnection or shutoff. They also will never ask customers to make payments with a prepaid debit card, gift card, any form of cryptocurrency, or third-party digital payment mobile applications. If someone threatens immediate disconnection or shutoff of service, customers should hang up the phone, delete the email or text, or shut the door.
- Be wary when a stranger comes to your home: Oncor representatives do not need to enter your home for any reason, especially to perform work. If someone claims to work for Oncor and tries to enter your home, do not let them into your house or go anywhere with them. Call 911 if you fear for your safety.
- Always ask for photo identification: Oncor employees and authorized contractors performing work for Oncor will always carry company identification and wear company uniforms. Even if you are expecting an Oncor representative to perform some type of service at your property, always request and verify identification.
While Oncor delivers electricity to more than 10 million Texans, it is not a retailer and does not sell electricity directly to customers. Oncor’s participation in the annual Utility Scam Awareness Week is part of our longstanding membership with Utilities United Against Scams (UUAS). The Company works alongside UUAS’ coalition of more than 140 electric, water and natural gas companies across the U.S. and Canada year-round to monitor common scam attempts and educate individuals on how to identify, avoid and report such attempts.
Customers who suspect that they have been victims of fraud or who feel threatened during contact with a scammer should notify their local utility company or law enforcement authorities. The Federal Trade Commission’s website also provides additional information about protecting personal information and other information regarding impostor scams. For more information on Consumer Protection Week, available consumer education materials and updates from consumer protection experts, visit FTC.gov/NCPW.