Tucson, Ariz. – As Scam Awareness Day approaches next Wednesday, Tucson Electric Power (TEP) is reminding customers to protect themselves from scammers who impersonate TEP employees while trying to steal money or personal information using phone calls, text messages, letters and visits.
TEP has joined more than 150 other electric, gas and water utilities in North America in an awareness campaign designed to help customers recognize suspicious, high-pressure tactics used in ongoing scams. More than 1,700 TEP customers have reported being targeted this year by scammers.
Most frequently, TEP customers report receiving a phone call from someone who claims to be a TEP employee and threatens to disconnect service for unpaid bills or damaged electric meters. Scammers often instruct customers to make payment over the phone with a pre-paid money card within a short amount of time – often an hour or less – to avoid shutoff. Callers may use an angry or urgent tone of voice to pressure customers into making a payment. Other tactics used by scammers include:
- Instructing customers to bring a money order or cashier’s check to a local pharmacy or to pay in bitcoin.
- Enticing intended victims by offering a month of free electric service or bill discounts in exchange for rapid payment.
- Claiming customers have overpaid their utility bills and requesting personal bank account information or a credit card number to facilitate a refund.
- Contacting customers via text message, registered letter or in person. They sometimes use software that disguises phone calls or text messages to make them appear as if they’re coming from TEP or a government agency.
TEP would never use such high-pressure tactics to collect payment. Customers can follow a few simple steps to protect themselves:
Hang up. Customers who suspect they are targets of a phone scam should simply hang up. Ending the call ends their scam. Similarly, they can delete suspicious emails and text messages or shut the door on suspicious visitors. Customers concerned for their physical safety should call 911. TEP only contacts customers by phone with automated bill payment reminders as a courtesy, and never demands immediate payment.
Don’t follow scammers’ instructions to buy prepaid cards. TEP never urges customers to purchase prepaid money cards to pay a monthly bill. A complete list of legitimate payment methods, including payment online and through TEP’s mobile app, is available at tep.com.
Contact TEP, not the scammers. Customers with questions about their bill or concerns about scams are welcome to call TEP’s Customer Care team at 520-623-7711 – the number listed on their monthly bill and tep.com. Don’t call other phone numbers provided by scammers. Customers also can check their account status at any time at tep.com or TEP’s mobile app.
This year, TEP supported an effort by the Arizona Attorney General’s office and the Arizona Food Marketing Alliance to combat utility gift card scams across the state. Warning signs prompting customers to consider why they have been instructed to buy a prepaid card are installed at more than 1,200 grocery and convenience stores throughout Arizona.
Recurring safety inspections and routine maintenance performed by our employees require access to electric meters, service lines and other equipment on customer property. Our employees must be able to safely reach this equipment to properly assess its condition and perform work. Here’s how customers can identify TEP employees working near their home or business:
- Look for the TEP logo on the employee’s clothing, safety equipment and vehicle.
- Ask to see the employee’s identification. All employees are required to show their ID badge when asked.
- Call TEP directly at 520-623-7711 to verify the employee’s identity and reason for work in the area.
TEP provides safe, reliable electric service to more than 433,000 customers in Southern Arizona. For more information, visit tep.com. TEP and its parent company, UNS Energy, are subsidiaries of Fortis Inc. (NYSE: FTS), which owns utilities that serve more than 3 million customers across Canada and in the United States and the Caribbean. For more information, visit fortisinc.com.
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