Stay Alert for Increased Utility Bill Phone Scams
Business customers in Southern California Edison’s service area could face an increase in phone scams beginning this month as SCE ends its moratorium on disconnections for nonpayment, in effect since the early days of the COVID–19 pandemic. Collection activities, including service disconnections, resume for business customers with past-due account balances.
Small businesses may be particularly vulnerable to fake threats of disconnection because of fears about losing business if their power is shut off.
Even with disconnections on hold, SCE customers reported being scammed out of more than $237,000 in the first six months of this year — more than half of that amount sent to scammers using mobile cash apps such as Zelle.
“During the two-plus years that SCE put service disconnections on hold, a customer could be certain that any caller threatening disconnection was a scam artist,” said Randy White, SCE’s manager of Physical Security Operations.
“It’s crucial for all our customers to know that SCE will never phone you to threaten disconnection and demand payment within an hour or a few hours,” White said, “and that SCE does not accept payments through third-party mobile apps like Zelle.”
Edwin Gaa of Temecula is a business owner who was recently victimized by phone scammers impersonating SCE employees. The callers threatened to shut off his power if he didn’t pay them immediately. “They called on a Friday afternoon when I had a lot of customers, and I couldn’t afford for my power to be shut off.”
The scammers sent him an email from a phony address (Joe.Jenkins@scebills.com) and instructed him to pay using Zelle. After sending the requested amount, the scammers told him he paid the “the wrong meter” and needed to send the money again. He ultimately lost close to $1,800.
“I should have called Edison to verify my bill and payment amount,” said Gaa.
Orange County business owner Nick D. (name withheld by request) recently reported an unsuccessful scam to SCE. He was out of town on business when he picked up a call from “an unknown number … with a recording about a past-due bill, and if it was an error, press 0, so I did,” Nick said. He was connected to an imposter who said his SCE account was delinquent, and that a technician was sent to turn off the power if he didn’t pay $311 immediately.
To avoid being scammed, customers should remember:
- SCE will never phone you to threaten disconnection and demand immediate payment.
- SCE will never phone you to ask for your credit card or SCE account information.
- SCE does not accept prepaid cash cards, bitcoins or payments through third-party mobile apps such as Zelle.
- SCE does not have a “disconnection department.”
- SCE employees in the field neither request nor accept payments.
“He texted me a code so he wouldn’t have to ask for my credit card information,” Nick said. “He was very aggressive and demanded a payment through Zelle.” With the scammer still on the phone, Nick tried sending the money through the app, but his bank did not process the transaction and sent him a scam warning. The scammer told Nick to send the payment again; instead, Nick hung up and called SCE to report the scam attempt.
Business customers suspecting they’re being targeted by a utility bill scam should confirm their payment status and report the scam attempt by calling SCE’s business customer support line at 1-800-990-7788, or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or completing SCE’s online fraud form. They should also report the scam attempt to local law enforcement.
SCE encourages small business customers facing challenges with past-due account balances to set up a payment arrangement by calling SCE's business customer support at 1-800-990-7788.
Learn more about SCE’s resumption of collections processes for business customers at sce.com/businesscollections.