OMAHA – The Omaha Public Power District has been hearing from customers who have been receiving phone calls from scammers, falsely alleging their power will be shut off within 30 minutes for failure to pay their bills.
Spokeswoman Jodi Baker said these scam calls have been reported all over the utility’s service area, which includes a large portion of Cass County.
“We received 150 reports from customers over a two-day period last week,” she said on Tuesday.
Scams like these are reported frequently here and nationwide, according to Baker, but recent headlines about regional power issues may have sparked the latest round of calls in this area.
Utilities often see a spike in scam calls after severe weather or other power-related events, when customers may feel the most vulnerable, she said.
“It seems to be their pattern - following utility-related news,” Baker said.
Most of the latest calls have been automated messages left by a caller pretending to be a company employee. The message states power will be disconnected in a half-hour if customers do not call back to settle up.
These callers do not represent the utility, Baker said. The utility never cold calls customers demanding payment. If people receive such a call, they should hang up and call OPPD directly at 402-536-4131. Outside of Omaha, customers can call 1-877-536-4131, toll-free.
Often, the scammers use “spoofing” technology so that caller identification appears to show a legitimate OPPD phone number. In some cases, they have falsely claimed that customers need to pay for equipment, such as meters. They try to get their targets to give up credit, debit or pre-paid card numbers of some sort over the phone.
OPPD advises customers:
• Never give personal or financial information to a stranger during an unsolicited phone call, whether live or automated.
• Be suspicious of any emails received regarding utility bills if you have not opted in to online communications from OPPD. Never provide personal information via email, and do not click on suspicious links.
• Do not respond to text messages seeking personal information or utility bill payments or click on links within such messages.