Amid public safety blackouts, watch out for scam calls

In recent years, power companies have warned customers about scam calls that impersonate the utility and demand payment, threatening to cut off service.

PORTLAND, Oregon – Hot, dry and windy weather conditions in Oregon this weekend put the region at high risk of wildfires, prompting Portland General Electric and Pacific Power to make the unusual decision to plan preemptively limited power outages to ensure their equipment does not start a fire.

Utility companies have tried to be proactive in notifying affected customers to ensure they have time to prepare, but the outages also raise concerns about another electricity-related nuisance.

Oregon’s utility companies have warned ratepayers in recent years about an increase in scammers targeting electric utility customers through calls, texts, emails, fake bills and even in-person visits.

RELATED: Fake PGE Employees Threaten to Cut Power in Latest Phone Scam

Scammers usually pose as utility managers and claim that customers have “overdue bills” that they must pay immediately to avoid having their power cut off.

A KGW viewer contacted this week to report he had received a PGE scam call, but with the added peculiarity of coming at a time when the power is truly out for tens of thousands of customers in the Oregon this weekend – but of course the outages are due to wildfires rather than unpaid bills, and power will be restored to everyone as soon as it is safe to do so.

In a fraud alert earlier this year, PGE offered several tips to help taxpayers spot potential scams.

  • PGE always offers multiple payment options before cutting service, so if a caller threatens to cut power immediately, that’s a red flag.
  • Scammers typically ask for amounts just under $500 or $1,000, so be wary if you hear numbers in that range, especially if you think you don’t owe that much.
  • Scammers often request payment with a prepaid card or through an app like Zelle or Venmo. PGE will never request payment using any of these methods.
  • Proceed with caution even if your called ID says PGE or Portland General Electric. It could still be a scam.

OTHER WILDFIRE STORIES: Here’s what air quality should look like this weekend in Oregon, Washington

PGE and Pacific Power both told KGW on Friday that they had received no more reports of scam calls than usual so far this week.