Nov. 15, 2016– AEP Texas is joining forces with more than 20 gas and electric utility companies across the United States and Canada to protect customers from long-running scams. These utilities have designated November 16th as “Utilities United Against Scams Day.”
Scam attempts increase during the holidays. Reports of scam attempts have been noted within the AEP Texas service territory this week. AEP Texas and other utilities are exposing the tricks scammers use to steal money from customers.
“Scammers are typically targeting local businesses, senior citizens and customers whose native language is not English,” said Joel Murphy, AEP Texas director of customer services and marketing. “We’re sharing this information so customers can protect themselves from this fraudulent activity.”
“While we cannot speak for the Retail Electric Providers (REPs), AEP Texas employees will never proactively contact a customer demanding an immediate payment, insist a payment be made with a prepaid credit card or ask a customer to meet us in a parking lot to make a payment,” Murphy said.
Thieves are calling consumers within the AEP Texas service territory and:
- Threatening to shut off power unless an immediate payment is made; (Note: As an energy delivery company, AEP Texas does not bill the end-use customer. AEP Texas disconnects customers for non-payment as instructed by the Retail Electric Provider.
- Telling customers they need a new electric meter, but must make a payment before the new meter is installed;
- Demanding a deposit be paid immediately;
- Offering a discount on their utility bill if they sign up for auto-pay (Note: Again, as a distribution and transmission, or “Wires” company, AEP Texas does not bill the end-use customer.)
More Red flags for scam activity
- The thief instructs the customer to purchase a pre-paid debit or credit card – widely available at retail stores – then call him or her back to supposedly make a payment to AEP Texas.
- The scammer asks the customer for the prepaid card’s receipt number and PIN number, which grants instant access to the card’s funds.
- The scammers are calling from numbers that names AEP Texas on the Caller ID. And they have a telephone recording that sounds like an AEP Texas phone system message.
How to protect yourself
- Call your Retail Electric Provider to verify your account balance and date your payment is due. The correct phone number is shown on your monthly electricity bill.
- The Retail Electric Provider--not AEP Texas--will notify customers by mail that their account is past due and their electric service will be disconnected – never a single notification one hour before disconnection.
- If you suspect someone is trying to scam you, hang up and call the local police and then AEP Texas. Never dial the phone number the scammers provide.
Customers who suspect or experience fraud, or feel threatened during contact with one of these thieves, should contact local authorities, and then AEP Texas at 1- 877-373-4858.
More than 90 percent of customers who receive a call and report it to AEP Texas indicate they did not fall for the scam. In the initial stages of the scam activity, it is estimated that at least 50 percent of customers contacted were tricked.
AEP Texas continues to educate customers about scams through messages on their electric bills, on AEPTexas.com through social media and public service announcements. AEP Texas also is working with local, state and federal law enforcement agencies to identify and prosecute scammers.
For more information visit https://aeptexas.com/StopScams or follow AEP Texas on Twitter, and Facebook to learn more.
AEP Texas, headquartered in Corpus Christi, is connected to and serves more than one million electric consumers in the deregulated Texas marketplace. As an energy delivery company, AEP Texas delivers electricity safely and reliably to homes, businesses and industries across its nearly 100,000-square-mile service territory in south and west Texas. AEP Texas also maintains and repairs its lines, reads electric meters, and handles service connections and disconnections as directed by the Retail Electric Providers (REPs) selling electricity in the area.
AEP Texas is an operating company unit of American Electric Power (AEP), one of the largest electric utilities in the United States, delivering electricity to more than 5 million customers in 11 states. AEP ranks among the nation’s largest generators of electricity, owning nearly 38,000 megawatts of generating capacity in the U.S. AEP also owns the nation’s largest electricity transmission system, a nearly 39,000-mile network that includes more 765-kilovolt extra-high voltage transmission lines than all other U.S. transmission systems combined. AEP’s transmission system directly or indirectly serves about 10 percent of the electricity demand in the Eastern Interconnection, the transmission system that covers 38 eastern states and central U.S. states. AEP’s utility units operate as AEP Ohio, Appalachian Power (in Virginia and West Virginia), AEP Appalachian Power (in Tennessee), Indiana Michigan Power, Kentucky Power, Public Service Company of Oklahoma, and Southwestern Electric Power Company (in Arkansas, Louisiana and east and north Texas). AEP’s headquarters are in Columbus, Ohio.