For Immediate Release: November 17, 2020
PHOENIX and TUCSON – Scammers are taking advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic to intimidate people into falling victim to their schemes. That’s why Arizona Public Service (APS), Salt River Project (SRP), Southwest Gas, Tucson Electric Power (TEP) and UniSource Energy Services are coming together for Utility Scam Awareness Day, Nov. 18, 2020, to help protect customers from potential scams.
Utility Scam Awareness Day is an advocacy and awareness campaign organized by Utilities United Against Scams (UUAS) to educate customers and expose the high-pressure tactics used by scammers. Scammers typically use phone, in-person and online tactics to target people, especially those experiencing hardship.
“Customers need to be on high alert as we continue to see impostor utility scams rise across North America,” said UUAS Executive Director Monica Martinez. “Scammers demand money or personal information on the spot—usually with threatening language—and indicate that service will be disconnected immediately. Anyone and everyone, from senior households to small business owners, are at risk of being targeted.”
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 instruct customers to purchase a prepaid card such as Green Dot, MoneyPak or Vanilla and then call the impostors back to make a payment by phone and prevent disconnection.
- Request for prepaid card. When the customer calls back, the scammer asks the customer for the prepaid card’s PIN number, which grants instant access to the card’s funds, and 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. Hang up the phone, delete the text, delete the email or shut the door if you receive disconnection threats. Customers with delinquent accounts receive advanced notification, 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 verify. Never use the call-back phone number provided to verify billing or account information. Also, some phone scammers can mirror the actual name and number of your utility on your caller ID, known as spoofing. It might look real, but don’t fall for it. If someone from a disguised number is demanding immediate payment with a prepaid card, it is a scam.
- Make sure you have the correct phone number. Find your utility’s phone number on your bill or on the company’s official website.
- Protect your personal information. Never share personal or credit card information with an unverified source. Scammers are sneaky and try to obtain private information.
- Call 911. Customers should call 911 if they ever feel they are in physical danger.
For more information about impostor utility scams and safety tips, visit utilitiesunited.org.
During these challenging times, we know Arizonans need reliable support from sources they can trust. APS, SRP, Southwest Gas, TEP and UniSource offer customer support programs and flexible payment options for customers in need of assistance.
Arizona Public Service: APS serves nearly 1.3 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. APS is here to help during difficult times. Customers will not be disconnected for non-payment through 2020 and late fees are waived. To learn more about available support, visit aps.com/support or call the APS Customer Care Center. Advisors are available to support in English and Spanish 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 602-371-7171 or 1-800-253-9405.
Salt River Project: SRP is a community-based, not-for-profit public power utility and the largest provider of electricity in the greater Phoenix metropolitan area, serving more than 1 million customers. SRP is also the metropolitan area’s largest supplier of water, delivering about 800,000 acre-feet annually to municipal, urban and agricultural water users. SRP employees are available 24/7/365 for any customer needs or concerns. Simply call 602-236-8888 or visit srpnet.com/heretohelp and srpnet.com.
Southwest Gas: Southwest Gas Corporation provides safe, affordable and clean natural gas service to over two million customers in Arizona, California and Nevada. The COVID-19 crisis has placed unexpected financial hardships on many Southwest customers. There are programs available to assist customers in Arizona, including flexible payment plans, payment assistance programs and income-qualified rate assistance. More information can be found at swgas.com/en/az-special-programs. Southwest Gas is here to help and encourage customers to learn more about these programs by visiting our website at swgas.com or by calling 1-877-860-6020.
Tucson Electric Power and UniSource Energy Services: TEP serves more than 432,000 electric customers in Southern Arizona. UniSource provides natural gas and electric service to about 256,000 customers in Northern and Southern Arizona. Both TEP and UniSource stand ready to help customers facing financial hardships due to the pandemic. 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: Jill Hanks, Jill.Hanks@aps.com, 602-330-5455
SRP: Kathleen Mascareñas, Kathleen.Mascarenas@srpnet.com, 602-236-2585
Southwest Gas: Amy Washburn, Amy.Washburn@SWgas.com, 602-395-4090
TEP and UniSource: Joseph Barrios, firstname.lastname@example.org, 520-884-3725