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Utah utilities warn customers to beware of phone scam

Published March 5, 2013 7:22 am

Fraud • Scammers call and ask that payments be made immediately.
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Rocky Mountain Power and Questar Gas are urging Utahns to beware of a phone scam that is targeting utility customers.

Crooks posing as customer service agents are making contact in an effort to steal personal information and money.

"This isn't a new scam," said Jeff Hymas, spokesman for Rocky Mountain Power. "We warned our Spanish-speaking customers about a similar fraud last summer. What is new is in recent weeks there has been an uptick in our customers reporting they have received such fraudulent phone calls."

The scheme involves scammers claiming to be from one of the utilities. They tell the potential victim they have not paid for their service and are in jeopardy of being disconnected. The caller advises that a payment be made immediately, either on the phone, by calling a special number or by going to a local store to purchase a pre-paid card and calling back with the code.

Hymas said that so far this year close to 40 customers have reported they received such telephone calls. "Last year, we received around 180 similar [complaints]."

Questar Gas hasn't heard from any of its customers, but was notified by utilities in other states that their customers were being victimized, said spokesman Darren Shepherd.

In a jointly issued statement, Questar and Rocky Mountain explained that they have specific procedures for contacting customers that differ widely from the scammers' approach.

For one, their representatives will always have the customer's account number.

"Even then, if you are contacted by phone and have any concerns about the validity of the call, it is always appropriate to let the caller know you prefer to call them back at the utility's published customer-service number," their statement said.

Rocky Mountain Power can be reached any time, toll free at 1-888-221-7070, and Questar Gas at 1-800-323-5517.

"We want to remind customers to be vigilant when anyone calls and requests account information and credit- and debit-card numbers," said Brad Markus, general manager of customer relations for Questar Gas.

The two utilities said anyone receiving such calls or other forms of contact regarding their bills should pay close attention to any information — such as the phone number they are asked to call, a number that appears on caller ID, an address where they're told to send money, or even vehicle license plate numbers — and to report the incident to local police and their utility provider.

"These scammers are in no way associated with our company and we take very seriously any efforts to defraud our customers, especially using our company's good customer relationships and reputation," Karen Gilmore, Rocky Mountain's vice president of customer service, said in the statement.


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To contact utilities

Call toll-free any time for Rocky Mountain Power at 1-888-221-7070, and for Questar Gas at 1-800-323-5517




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