A reader: I got a call today from someone claiming to be with PG&E. The phone number on my caller ID was 800-743-5000. They said my bill was past due and threatened that if I didn’t pay the bill over the phone right then that they would send law enforcement out and arrest me. Can they do that?
Action Line: Although the phone number on the caller id really is the customer service number from PG&E, I can guarantee you that the caller was not a PG&E employee. PG&E is not making these calls. They would never call and ask for any financial information from their customers over the phone. PG&E advises that you should treat any request like this as a scam. I also do not know of any law enforcement agency that would arrest you for an unpaid utility bill.
There are many types of these scams. Sometimes these callers will identify themselves as employees of utility company. Others will say they are from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). And yet again, we hear various names from so-called collection agencies. They also use email to get to you. We have had reports of threatened deportation, arrests and license revocation. Don’t believe them! They all want your financial information (your money). If you give it to them, you will likely be the next victim of identity theft. You will also be out your money.
Here are some tips to keep you from being the next victim:
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▪ Be skeptical if you are asked to take action immediately. Scammers often push you into action before you have time to think about what they are doing.
▪ Hang up! Go online or to your phone book to get the real customer service number of the company they say they are with. Call that number and ask if they are making calls to their customers.
▪ Write down the details. Write down the phone number and any other information you have.
▪ DO NOT provide any financial information. DO NOT give them your bank account info. DO NOT give them your credit card information.
▪ DO NOT purchase a prepaid debit card and give them the card information.
▪ DO NOT let them bully you. Never trust callers who use threats and hostility to push you into doing what they want. Be very wary when a caller claims that they can “arrest” you if you refuse to pay.
PG&E and IRS will not call you. Collection agencies will, but they have rules, too. That could be another column on another day!
Report the scam at bbb.org/scamtracker.
Action Line is written by Blair Looney, president and CEO for the Better Business Bureau serving Central California. Send your consumer concerns, questions and problems to Action Line at the Better Business Bureau, 4201 W. Shaw Ave., Suite 107, Fresno, CA 93722 or firstname.lastname@example.org.