As of Thursday, January 19, 2012 the Southern California Gas Company (SoCalGas) is warning customers to be aware of an ongoing wire fraud that could potentially reach SoCalGas customers. The fraudulent activity has been reported on the East Coast and at this time there are no indications that SoCalGas customers have been targeted.
Utilities on the East Coast have reported that individuals misrepresenting themselves as utility employees are calling customers and threatening to turn off electric and gas service if payment is not made to them that day. Utility customers, primarily in the Hispanic community, have been told that payment must be made by purchasing a pre-pay credit card, and are directed to another phone number where information is then obtained from the card and the cash value is removed from the card or the permanent card is registered in another name and redirected.
“Although there have not yet been reports of this fraudulent activity in southern California, we want to alert our customers in an effort to prevent them from becoming potential victims,” said Michael Schneider, vice president of customer operations at SoCalGas. “We advise customers to be alert and not to provide any type of financial information if they receive a call from a suspicious company.”
SoCalGas does not proactively contact customers to ask for credit card information over the phone, said Schneider. The utility provides past due notices in writing before service is shut-off for non-payment. Additionally, all SoCalGas employees on company business are required to carry a photo ID badge. When customers call SoCalGas for billing inquiries, employees will always be able to provide account information and the exact past due balance. If customers receive a phone call that makes them feel uncomfortable, they should hang up and call SoCalGas at 1-800-427-2200 or 1-800-342-4545 in Spanish, or the local authorities to file a report.
About Southern California Gas Co.:
Southern California Gas Co. (SoCalGas) has been delivering clean, safe and reliable natural gas to its customers for more than 140 years. It is the nation’s largest natural gas distribution utility, providing service to 20.9 million consumers connected through nearly 5.8 million meters in more than 500 communities. The company’s service territory encompasses approximately 20,000 square miles throughout central and Southern California, from Visalia to the Mexican border. SoCalGas is a regulated subsidiary of Sempra Energy (NYSE: SRE).