Utility scammers active again

Customers in doubt urged to call Clark Public Utilities line

By Aaron Corvin, Columbian port & economy reporter

Published:

 

The utility bill scammers are back with similar threats to cut your power unless you pay up.

After seeing a rise in reports last year of deceptive phone calls to its commercial customers — especially small businesses — Clark Public Utilities warned Friday that it’s now noticing another increase in shakedowns, the majority of which are aimed at its residential customers.

The utility does sometimes call customers who are behind in payments and who haven’t contacted the utility to make payment arrangements, said Erica Erland, a spokeswoman for the utility, which provides electricity and water to tens of thousands of residential and business customers in Clark County.

However, any customer who is uncertain whether a phone call related to a bill is legitimate should hang up and dial the utility’s customer service line, 360-992-3000, Erland said. Customer service representatives are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“If the call was not from the utility, law enforcement is requesting that victims of these scams report the information to the police,” Erland said in an email to The Columbian.

Here’s how the rip-off works: The swindler calls customers on the phone and then tells them they’re in danger of disconnection because of a past due bill. Then the deceiver asks them to hang up and to call a specific number with the payment, and then to call the deceiver back.

“This is happening in our area, the Portland area and we’re hearing that Seattle is really getting hit hard,” Erland said. “We have also heard from local law enforcement that there has been an increase in reports from citizens calling in about these scams.”

Erland said the utility was planning to post a warning on its Facebook page.