‘Tis the season for utility-bill scams, Tucson Electric says

Tucson Electric Power and other Arizona utilities are warning customers that professional scammers often use the hectic holiday season to take advantage of unsuspecting victims.

According to experts, December and January typically have the greatest amount of scam activity, which usually involve demands for bill payment to avoid service shutoffs, the utilities said.

TEP and its sister rural utility, UniSource Energy Services, together with Arizona Public Service, Salt River Project and Southwest Gas are partnering with Utilities United Against Scams to warn consumers.

“Scammer tactics are becoming increasingly sophisticated, but utility impostor scams are oftentimes as simple as a scammer posing as a customer’s local utility, calling and threatening to shut off their service,” said Monica Martinez, executive director of UUAS.

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Here are some common signs of a scam:

Threat to disconnect. Scammers often contact customers claiming their utility bill is past due and service will be shut off unless payment is made.

Demand for immediate payment. Scammers often pressure customers to make payments immediately via cash apps or prepaid debit cards (like Green Dot, MoneyPak or Vanilla).

Request for prepaid cards. Fraudsters often ask customers to get a prepaid cash card and call them back with the PIN code. Arizona utilities never require payment via a prepaid debit card, gift card or form of cryptocurrency.

Protect yourself

Don’t fall for threats. Hang up the phone, delete the text, delete the email or shut the door if you receive disconnection threats. Customers with delinquent accounts receive advance notification — never a single last-minute notice before disconnection.

Call your utility to verify, using your utility’s phone number found on your bill or on the company’s official website.

Never share personal or credit card information with an unverified source.

Beware of unsolicited scam text messages, especially ones with a barcode or QR code, and never respond to or click on unexpected texts.

Learn how scamsters impersonate utility officials and use other tricks to separate ratepayers from their money.

Contact senior reporter David Wichner at [email protected] or 520-573-4181. On Twitter: @dwichner. On Facebook: Facebook.com/DailyStarBiz

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