Scammers requesting payment to turn power back on, says Austin Energy

Austin Energy said they have received reports from scammers asking customers to make a payment to restore their power supply.

Austin Energy is reminding its customers to restore electricity as quickly and safely as possible to those who run out of electricity after the recent winter storm. At 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, February 20, only 6,100 customers in the Austin area will be without power.

Austin Energy has the following tips to help you avoid falling for the call.

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How to spot a scam

Scammers typically reach customers by phone, letter, email, text, or even visit your home, says Austin Energy. Fraudsters often use valid phone numbers, official-looking letterhead or bills, graphics, uniforms, and other forms of fraudulent identification.

Scams usually have the following markings:

  • Threat to disconnect: The fraudulent utility representative aggressively informs the customer that their account is overdue and the service will be disconnected – usually within an hour – if a large payment is not made
  • Request for immediate payment: The scammer instructs the customer to quickly buy a prepaid debit card that is available in retail stores
  • Prepaid Debit Card Information Request: The fraudster asks for the prepaid debit card number that gives the fraudster instant access to the credit on the card

How to protect yourself

Austin Energy said you should hang up and dial 3-1-1 if you receive a call, letter, or email that threatens to disrupt service. Customers should write down the call details, especially the phone number that is listed on the caller ID and the number that the scammer requested that you call back to make payment.

Anyone unsure of their account status can visit the online customer care portal or call 512-494-9400.

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Austin Energy says the City of Austin Utilities NEVER:

  • Call private customers with immediate cut-off times
  • Call for credit card or wire transfer information
  • Request an instant in-person payment using cash, gift card, bitcoin, or some incomprehensible payment method

Austin Energy advises that commercial customers may receive a courtesy call two days before the scheduled cut-off time for non-payment.

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