Unfortunately, we are approaching a busy time for scams targeting utility customers. But there are things you can do to outsmart scammers.
Scam reports are rising every year, and OPPD has seen an uptick in scam calls to its customers. Nov. 17-23 marks Scam Awareness Week, and it’s always a good idea to be aware of the tactics used by these con artists so you don’t fall victim.
Here are some of the ways scammers have tried to con OPPD customers, sometimes successfully:
- Spoofing OPPD’s phone number
- Using automated, “robo,” calls and asking customers to call back to make a payment.
- Calling businesses in rounds (daycares in one round, nail salons in another, etc.). They use high-pressure tactics including threatening disconnection of service unless a payment is made. This often scares business owners who cannot afford to be shut off from power.
- Calling before, during and after high-profile storms in areas that experienced storm-related outages. Scammers look to take advantage of people who have already been without power.
- Claiming customers owe money for meters or other equipment that needs replaced or repaired.
- Calling during the busy holiday season.
- And the list goes on.
Reports rise every year. In 2018, OPPD logged 714 reports from customers who received phone calls from scammers. Unfortunately, 28 of those customers paid the scammers. That compares to 480 reports of scam calls in 2017, where 10 customers paid the scammers.
What you can do
So how can customers guard against scammers? OPPD advises customers:
- Never give personal or financial information to a stranger during an unsolicited phone call.
- If such a person should appear unannounced at your door, claiming to work for OPPD, do not allow them inside. Always ask for identification or verification. OPPD employees always carry their badge. Failure to produce identification should be a clue that something is wrong.
- Never turn off security systems for any reason if a stranger asks. Any customer who received such a request should call law enforcement immediately.
Customers with questions about making a payment, or about their account in general, should always call OPPD directly. Within Omaha, the number is 402-536-4131. Outside of Omaha, customers should call 1-877-536-4131.
Customers in rural areas may talk with their local OPPD office during business hours.