BEEVILLE, TEXAS — Officials with AEP Texas, along with law enforcement in Bee County, say that power customers are being targeted in a scam.
The scammers are asking customers to make an immediate payment or have their service disconnected.
The scammers started in the West Texas area in early January, and now they have made their way to South Texas.
The Beeville Police Department wants to warn the community about ongoing scams involving the electric company AEP.
“We have received several reports of individuals being contacted referencing the light service or electric service will be cut off if they don’t pay a $1,000 fee over the phone. And unfortunately, many of our citizens are intimidated, and some have fallen victim to the scam,” said Beeville Police Chief Robert Bridge.
The toll-free number scammers call from appears to be legitimate, along with a recording that plays when customers call the number back.
“The scammers are very good, and a lot of times they are out of the country. They do a lot of this through telephones and through bank accounts that are multiple layers of accounts. So it is very difficult, but we have to try to educate the public to make sure they don’t become a victim from the very beginning,” said Bridge.
If customers receive demanding or urgent phone calls from someone claiming to be with AEP, they suggest you hang up and contact the power company or local law enforcement.
“AEP has assured us that they don’t operate like that, and they will always contact the resident or home owner via mail, and never demand that a fee be paid through bank cards or any kind of mechanism like that,” said Bridge.
It’s really simple: If someone calls or visits your home or business claiming to be an AEP Texas employee and asking for payment, it is a scam.
AEP Texas employees do not proactively contact customers demanding payment to replace an electric meter.
AEP Texas periodically replaces meters; however, AEP Texas employees do not seek payment in order to remove and replace the meter.
Thieves are calling consumers within the AEP Texas service territory and:
- Threatening to shut off power unless an immediate payment is made; (Note: As an energy delivery company, AEP Texas does not bill the end-use customer. The end-use customer is billed by the Retailer Electric Provider. AEP Texas disconnects customers for non-payment as instructed by the Retail Electric Provider.)
- Telling customers they need a new electric meter, but must make a payment before the new meter is installed.
- Demanding a deposit is paid immediately.
- Offering a discount on their utility bill if they sign up for auto-pay (Note: Again, as a distribution and transmission, or “Wires” company, AEP Texas does not bill the end-use customer.)
More Red flags for scam activity include:
- The thief instructs the customer to purchase a pre-paid debit or credit card – widely available at retail stores – then call him or her back to supposedly make a payment to AEP Texas.
- The scammer asks the customer for the prepaid card’s receipt number and PIN number, which grants instant access to the card’s funds.
- The scammers are calling from numbers that names either AEP or AEP Texas on the Caller ID.
Moreover, they have a telephone recording that sounds like an AEP Texas phone system message. Calling the number left on the recording connects the customer with the person or persons attempting the scam—not AEP Texas.
How to protect yourself:
- Call your Retail Electric Provider to verify your account balance and date your payment is due. The correct phone number is shown on your monthly electricity bill. Calling a number left on phone message may connect you with the scammer—not your Retail Electric Provider.
- The Retail Electric Provider--not AEP Texas--will notify customers that their account is past due and their electric service will be disconnected – never a single notification one hour before disconnection.
- If you suspect someone is trying to scam you, hang up and call the local police and then AEP Texas. Never dial the phone number the scammers provide.
- Customers who suspect or experience fraud, or feel threatened during contact with one of these thieves, should contact local authorities, and then AEP Texas at 1- 877-373-4858.
AEP Texas continues to educate customers about scams through messages on AEPTexas.com, through social media and public service announcements.
AEP Texas also is working with local, state and federal law enforcement agencies to identify and prosecute scammers.
For more information visit https://aeptexas.com/StopScams or follow AEP Texas on Twitter, and Facebook to learn more.