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Scammers posing as PG&E employees targeting North Coast customers

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Reports of scammers posing as PG&E employees demanding immediate payment under the threat of service disruption has law enforcement and utility company officials concerned some of the North Coast’s most vulnerable residents are being targeted.

There has been a sharp increase of tech-savvy con artists calling customers throughout Sonoma, Lake and Mendocino counties over the last two months — more than twice the amount of calls reported during the same time last year, said Pacific Gas and Electric Co. spokeswoman Deanna Contreras.

The calls have been primarily to seniors, low-income residents or small business owners that rely on electricity, demanding immediate payments as high as $900, Petaluma Police Officer Matt Frick said. The scammers tell customers to use prepaid cards or untraceable forms of payment.

In Petaluma, at least five residents have come into the police station this week to report the phone calls, Frick said, “and those are just the people reporting it. There could be more.”

Contreras said the scammers have found a way to mask their phone numbers, which now show up on caller ID as PG&E. They give specific dollar amounts that are close to an unpaid balance on a customer’s bill, a level of specificity that sparked an internal security investigation, she said.

Utility representatives urged any customers who think they have been targeted to notify the company immediately or contact law enforcement.

The company does not spontaneously call customers demanding money, and any caller posing as a PG&E employee asking for prepaid cards for utility payment should be “a red flag,” Contreras said.

“We will never have a person call you unsolicited,” she said. “We will not ask for personal information and we will not ask for money or immediate payment.”

You can reach Staff Writer Yousef Baig at 707-521-5390 or yousef.baig@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @YousefBaig.

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