Warning: Nationwide Utility Scam
Garland, TX, April 29, 2013 – The City of Garland warns utility customers about a nationwide scam which residents have reported locally.
Scammers call customers telling them that they owe money for delinquent utility accounts and in order to avoid immediate disconnection of service, they must make a payment within a few hours. Typically, the scammer asks customers to buy prepaid debit cards and call back to make payment, or customers may be asked to pay over the phone with a credit card. Customers could also be asked to call a special number to make a payment, and in other communities, scammers have stated that they will pick up cash payments from customers.
"We want our customers to know that our representatives will never call to demand immediate payment on an active account, and would certainly not ask for credit card, debit card, or bank account information – or offer to come by and pick up cash," said Customer Service Director Kevin Slay. "We do make automated reminder calls on past-due accounts, but any kind of payment is always initiated by the customer," he added.
Customers can make payments by mail, drop box, drive thru and automatic bank draft. They may also initiate a payment from their bank's website, the City's utility bill payment web page or by calling Customer Service and using the phone prompts. Payment may also be made by visiting the city's authorized payment locations, including the Customer Service Payment Center in downtown Garland. For more details, visit garlandutilities.org.
"We encourage everyone to be suspicious of unsolicited utility payment calls and not provide any personal information over the phone if you did not initiate the call," said Slay. "If you have any concerns about your utility account, call us at 972-205-2671, which is also the contact number listed on your utility bill. We'll be glad to assist you."
The Utility Customer Service Department operates Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. Another indicator of a scammer calling would be calls made to customers outside these normal hours of service.
Customers should also be aware that scammers are increasingly using technology in an attempt to make their efforts seem real. With "spoofing software," they can deceptively display a utility's name and phone number on Caller ID.
If you believe you are a victim of a scam, you are encouraged to report the incident to the Garland Police Department.