Tucson Electric Power is warning local businesses to be aware of an increase in activity by scammers who impersonate TEP employees in attempt to steal money.
The scammers are using sophisticated and persistent tactics to convince customers to give them money.
Often, the Caller ID will display TEP and TEP’s main phone number – 520-623-7711. Scammers use software or apps to mask the real phone number, a practice called spoofing. Other times, scammers provide a phone number to call back with a recorded message designed to sound like TEP’s own Call Center.
Scammers will ask for immediate payment and threaten to cut off the electricity, sometimes saying TEP is on the way to disconnect service. If customers say they are using Auto Pay, the scammer will say that Auto Pay isn’t working.
“It sounds very legitimate because the scammer has an answer for everything,” said Carolina Villascuesa, Supervisor of TEP’s Commercial Call Center.
The scammer then directs the customer to pay with a pre-paid card to avoid shutoff, sometimes staying on the line while the customer goes to buy a card.
Scammers often contact businesses at times when they are busy to catch them off guard, prompting some to take action quickly to avoid their business shutting down. One local business owner paid thousands of dollars to a scammer who threatened to disconnect his electric service at a time when it would ruin his business’s grand opening.
Here are things to watch out for:
Disconnect notice: TEP will send a disconnect notice with bills to customers who are delinquent on payments. If no notice was received, your business is not at risk of losing service.
Automated phone calls: TEP customer service representatives never call customers to demand immediate payment of overdue bills. We sometimes use automated calls, or “robo-calls,” as a courtesy for bill payment and meter exchange reminders; a live person does not place those calls. Scammers also have started to use automated recordings, asking customers to call back a certain number. Don’t call back the provided number.
Payment instructions: TEP never requires customers to pay their bills with pre-paid cards. Instead, TEP customer service representatives suggest several different ways to pay. Scammers will ask for the prepaid card’s receipt number and PIN number, which grants instant access to the card’s funds.
What to do
Here are actions to take if you believe you are the victim of a scam:
Hang up. If you suspect you are the target of a phone scam, just hang up. Don’t feel pressured to provide personal information, including your account number, or take any action. If you’re concerned for your physical safety, call 911.
Don’t follow scammers’ instructions to buy pre-paid cards. TEP never urges customers to purchase pre-paid money cards to pay a monthly bill. A complete list of legitimate payment methods is available on TEP’s website.
Contact TEP. If you have questions about your bill or concerns about these issues, call TEP’s Customer Care team at 520-623-7711 for residential customers or 520-495-6333 for business customers. You can also send us a message through our website. Don’t call other phone numbers provided by scammers. Customers also can use My Account or the TEP mobile app to check account status.
Find more information on scams, including reporting scams to authorities, on tep.com.