Electric company warns of scam

Published 2:49 pm Wednesday, August 27, 2014

South Alabama Electric Cooperative is warning customer to be wary of a phone scam circulating in the area.

Customers have reported receiving calls from individuals claiming to be representatives of SAEC who say the customers need to pay their electric bills or face having service interrupted.

Chellie Phillips, the communications director for SAEC, said the company would never call “out of the blue.”

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“We don’t call asking for payments,” Phillips said. “We’ll handle it by mail, and a customer would actually have to call us to initiate a payment over the phone.”

Customers who have received the phone calls stated the number showing up on their Caller-ID was the number for the South Alabama Electric office.

“We’ve been in talks with the phone company trying to figure out how they’re able to do that,” Phillips said. “We’ve had customers tell us they’ve called the number back and it rings right to our office. We just don’t understand how they’re able to do that.”

Phillips also wanted to remind customers not to give their debit or credit card number to anyone over the phone.

“If you get a call you’re concerned about, call 800-556-2060 and ask to verify it,” Phillips said. “Nobody wants their power to be cut off, but make sure you know what’s going on before following through with the payments.”

Phillips said South Alabama Electric has notified local police that these calls are occurring.

SAEC officials urged customers to be diligent in keeping personal and financial information private, and maintain a sense of skepticism when conducting business with new contacts.

Here are a few guidelines to keep in mind:

Tread carefully online. If you receive unsolicited emails or click on pop-up windows, understand these can be run by phishers. Never send personal information electronically unless you’re making a purchase from a website you trust or opening a secure online account with an institution you’ve chosen to contact.

Establish who you’re dealing with. Before sharing personal information or making a payment, get a salesperson’s name, company name, physical address (not a P.O. Box), phone number and business license number. Research the entity on your own, inspecting its website and checking with the Better Business Bureau.

Take your time. A legitimate business or government agency will not push you into making an immediate decision or payment. Scam artists capitalize on the fear of “missing out,” or when making fake threats, they pressure you into a quick decision.

Be cautious about certain methods of payment. Wiring money is equivalent to sending cash — and it’s often untraceable. So is getting a Green Dot or other type of card you preload with cash.