Tucson – Tucson Electric Power is warning residents and business owners to watch for suspicious phone calls and text messages after customers reported a surge in attempts from scammers to steal money by falsely claiming to work for the company.
According to Tucson Electric Power (TEP), more than 500 customers have reported this week that they received a suspicious call or text message. Most reported receiving a phone call from someone who claimed to be a TEP employee and threatened to disconnect their electric service unless they made immediate payments.
TEP typically receives 5-10 such reports each day.
Scammers often instruct customers to make payment over the phone with a prepaid money card within a short amount of time – often an hour or less – to avoid shutoff. Callers may use an angry or urgent tone of voice to pressure customers into making a payment. At other times, customers report receiving a recorded message designed to sound like it’s coming from TEP’s Customer Care call center.
Scammers use software or apps to mask the real phone number, a practice called spoofing. Scammers will ask for immediate payment and threaten to cut off the electricity, sometimes saying TEP is on the way to disconnect service. If customers say they are using Auto Pay, the scammer will say that Auto Pay isn’t working.
TEP advises consumers that the company never uses high-pressure tactics to collect payment. Customers can follow a few simple steps to protect themselves:
Hang up. Customers who suspect they are targets of a scam should simply hang up or delete suspicious text messages and emails.
Shut the door on suspicious visitors. Customers concerned for their physical safety should call 911.
TEP contacts customers with automated bill payment reminders as a courtesy, and never demands immediate payment.
Don’t follow scammers’ instructions to buy prepaid cards. TEP never urges customers to purchase prepaid money cards to pay a monthly bill.