March 9, 2023
We are receiving an increased number of customer reports of utility scam phone calls. On Tuesday, 17 customers contacted Omaha Public Power District to report a scam, and we’ve gotten more calls today.
One reported scam features a message telling customers they’re eligible for bill credits and a rate reduction if they sign up for a program. The message asks callers to “Press 1” on their phones if interested. Another scam involves a text from an 800 number, offering discounts through a QR code with OPPD’s logo.
Long-running cons like these target customers of utilities here in our area and across the nation. Often, scammers try to convince their targets that they are overdue on bills or need to pay for some sort of equipment. The callers provide instructions to buy a gift card or pre-paid credit card of some sort to settle up. Otherwise, they claim, power will be disconnected.
The scam calls we’re hearing about are spoofing local area codes and even, in some cases, OPPD’s call center number. If you receive one of these phone calls, hang up. Dial OPPD directly at 402-536-4131. Only by calling us yourself can you be assured you are talking to an actual utility representative. If you receive a suspicious QR code, do not scan it.
Callers can be quite aggressive and threatening in their tone. Here are some of the other ways they may try to con customers out of money:
- Text messaging customers to try and get money.
- Asking customers to pay using a cash app.
- Using robocall technology to leave a message, asking customers to call back and make a payment.
- Recording and playing back authentic utility messages to sound more convincing for customers who call.
Seasonal scam twist
- Making hollow promises of a gift card in exchange for payment. This is more common around holidays.
OPPD is working in partnership with other local public power utilities to raise awareness among our customers, identify scammers’ trends, and get their phone numbers shut down, when possible. We want our residential and business customers to protect themselves by remembering the following:
- NONE of these calls are from the utility. Our call center representatives would never cold-call a customer demanding immediate payment. If customers were truly overdue on their bills to the point where service could be disconnected, they would receive written notice first. Authentic utility representatives never request payment via a purchased payment card.
- NEVER give personal or financial information to a stranger during an unsolicited phone call.
- Do NOT allow entrance to such a person, without proper credentials or utility authorization, appearing unannounced at your door.
- ALWAYS ask for identification or verification. OPPD employees always carry identification. Failure to produce identification should always be a tip-off to the customer that something is wrong.
- Be wary of sales pitches from companies claiming to represent or work with OPPD.
Again, customers who have any questions about service, their account or bill status, or if in need of financial assistance should call us at 402-536-4131 in the Omaha calling area or 877-536-4131 outside of the Omaha area.