Don’t get zapped by ‘electric company’ call

By Robb Hicken/ BBB’s chief storyteller

Tom Boyer, owner of Treasure Valley Coffee, said the call came early Saturday at his retail outlet, The Roastere.

“The call was from someone claiming to be Idaho Power, saying the electric  bill was past due and must be paid immediately,” he says. “They gave the  option of going to  ‘Jackson’s Food Store’ or directly to ‘headquarters.'”

Boyer was wise, and had heard of the scam. The number the caller provided looked to be from Idaho (208.258.9722), but a call to Idaho Power soon dispelled any urgency to respond to the fraudsters.

“They make it sound urgent to make a payment, threatening to turn off their power,” says Idaho Power spokeswoman Anne Alenskis.

Customers began contacting Idaho Power employees early this morning asking why their electricity was going to be shut off when their bill is current.

“Those people who are calling are doing the right thing,” she says. “Idaho Power does not threaten customers on the phone and demand payment.”

Scam artists have called Idaho Power customers ordering them to get a money card, wire transfer or give a credit card over the phone to make sure power will stay on.

“These scams have been going on for the past two years in our service area – this one  is targeting southwest Idaho,” she says.

The scammers are using computer generated phone number to spoof the Idaho Power contact center main number show up on people’s cellphones to make them think the call is legitimate. They are also using electric utility terminology to trick customers.

Idaho Power, Rocky Mountain Power, formerly Utah Power, will never ask a customer to make a wire transfer or ask for credit card information over the phone.

In October, businesses in Pocatello and Blackfoot were targeted. In July, businesses in the Idaho Falls area using Rocky Mountain Power were targeted with similar  calls.

Here are some tips:

  • If a caller specifically asks you to pay by prepaid debit card, this is a red flag. Your utility company will accept a check or credit card.
  • If you feel pressured for immediate payment or personal information, hang up the phone and call the customer service number on your utility bill. This will make sure you are speaking to a real representative.
  • Never allow anyone into your home to check electrical wiring, natural gas pipes or appliances unless you have scheduled an appointment or reported a problem. Also, ask utility employees for proper identification.

Alenskis says if someone is a victim of this scam, they should report it to the local police. And, if they receive a call, do not provide any account or personal information. Just hang up. Then report it to the Attorney General, as well as, their local BBB who is monitoring activity like this with other utilities in the area.

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