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Consumer Confidential: Your power probably isn't shutting off, regardless of what the 'utility' says

By David Lazarus, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Business News

It would be nice, considering everything else going on, if I didn't have to issue periodic reminders to watch out for scammers.

Unfortunately, the pandemic stay-at-home orders make us easy pickings for unscrupulous sorts who equate people's hardship with financial opportunity - which is why officials say scam calls are soaring.

The Federal Trade Commission says it has received well over 100,000 complaints related to coronavirus scams, including "miracle cures," bogus charities and other attempts to separate people from their money. Reported losses have reached nearly $140 million.

One of the most insidious rackets lately is calls from people purporting to work for the local utility. If you don't come across with some cash, they say, your power or water will be cut off.

The FTC says it has received about 4,700 complaints of utilities scams over the last year, with roughly $3.5 million reported lost.

Utilities nationwide and throughout California have warned customers to be on the alert for such calls and to not fall for the threats of service shutdowns.

 

"These kinds of scams have been around since before the COVID crisis," said Ron Gales, a spokesman for Southern California Edison. "But customers are at home now. It's not surprising that we're seeing more of it."

Anne Supple says she came alarmingly close the other day to getting duped by this scheme.

"You hear your electricity is being shut off, that's going to scare you," the Long Beach resident told me. "And this call sounds so real."

The danger is especially pronounced for seniors.

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