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Los Angeles utility alerts customers about telephone scam


From the February 13, 2013 issue of Public Power Daily

Originally published February 13, 2013

By Jeannine Anderson
Editor
Impostors posing as utility personnel have been contacting residential customers of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power by telephone and threatening immediate termination of service as a means of forcing payment for fictional account balances, the utility’s Security Services Division said. 

Speaking at a Feb. 6 news conference, LADWP Director of Security Services Patrick Findley recounted the details of the ongoing scam.

During the phone call, the impostor provides a phone number and instructs customers to purchase pre-paid cash cards for the fictional account balance and then call back once they have the card to provide the unique card number and PIN, and thereby pay their "bill."

The utility reminded its customers that LADWP employees will never contact customers and ask for personal payment information over the telephone. Payment by telephone can happen only through the utility’s voice-automated payment system, not with live employees. LADWP personnel do not accept payment information verbally over the telephone.

"These thugs are preying on the most vulnerable people in society, particularly seniors on fixed incomes who would be alarmed to hear that their water and power might be cut off," Findley said. "Public awareness is our best protection." Anyone receiving a call like that should hang up and call the utility at 1-800-DIAL-DWP, the Los Angeles utility said. The utility added that any customer who is contacted or visited by a member of the LADWP staff can confirm the person's employment and reason for visiting by calling the same phone number.

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