This message was sent to the media by Debra Katz, spokeswoman for Palo Alto Utilities:
We have just been alerted—thanks to a call from a Palo Alto business owner who suspected something was fishy—that a scam is being perpetrated right now.
We have no idea how wide spread this scam is so we want to warn all residents and business in the area to be on the alert for these phony calls. What happens: The resident or business owner gets a phone call saying records show they are overdue on their utilities bill and their power will be shut off immediately if they do not pay the bill over the phone right away. If the person is rattled enough to think their power truly is about to be shut off, they will then be giving their credit card information to a thief. What else we know: We did some initial investigation and found the “source” of the calls identify themselves as the “Department of Water and Power” and the calls are originating from the Los Angeles area. We’ve notified the Palo Alto Police Department, but this all has just been discovered this afternoon, so we don’t have further details on the scam yet. What everyone should know: When a customer has not paid their bill, the City of Palo Alto Utilities sends out multiple written warnings prior to taking the step of turning off power. Plus, our staff always identify themselves specifically as calling from the City of Palo Alto Utilities. If people ever get a call where the caller claims to be from the Utilities department and asks for money or other personal information, they should hang up and then call our Customer Service Center themselves at (650) 329-2161.
If the caller really was from the City Utilities, our Customer Service rep will be able to verify it.