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Scammers posing as APS representatives targeting local residents

4/6/16

Elizabeth Medora
Staff

NORTH VALLEY – “Your electricity is going to be shut off in 45 minutes.” So said a man identifying himself as “Joshua,” who called The Foothills Focus office last Wednesday, claiming to be an APS representative – the supposed “past due” account was fully paid, and the staff member who spoke to “Joshua” was aware of that and recognized he was one of the scammers APS recently has been warning residents about. These phone scammers are targeting residents and businesses around the Valley, threatening immediate shutoff of electricity if they don’t receive payment. If you receive one of these calls, hang up and call APS Customer Care Center directly at (602) 371-7171.

“APS will never contact a customer over the phone and demand payment,” said Jenna Shaver, Spokesperson for APS. “And, we would never accept credit card information over the phone.”

In a March 23 consumer alert, APS reported that over 50 customers had called APS to report being targeted by these scammers. APS also encountered a similar scam last fall.

“There are reports of similar scams across the country, targeting utility customers,” Shaver said. “At APS, we have reports from both residential and business customers. However, the scammers seem to be targeting our business customers more consistently.”

“The scammers are using a ghost phone system that appears to be APS on the recipient’s caller ID,” the March 23 consumer alert reported. “The potential victims are instructed to call a toll-free number to pay their electric bill under threat of having service disconnected within the hour. The number goes to a false phone system that acts and sounds like the actual APS Customer Care Center. Customers are asked to select a number for the service they require, including paying a bill. After selecting the option to pay their bill, the scammer picks up the phone and says, ‘This is APS, how can I help you?’ Payment is then collected by the scammers.”

Shaver reported that threatening immediate shutoff of electricity is a “common practice utilities see from scammers across the country.”

“It makes people panic and potentially act without thinking it through,” she said.” When in doubt, check in with the APS Customer Care Center before taking action.”

Phone scammers unfortunately can sound quite genuine; it’s not always easy to recognize them. These scams are widespread and varied. Many organizations have been the target of phone scammers, including the IRS. The IRS continues to warn taxpayers of phone scammers who pose as IRS agents and threaten imprisonment if payment is not received immediately. In all cases, the simplest way to protect yourself from these scammers is to hang up. If you think you may owe money to whatever agency the caller is claiming to be from, look up the number and call that agency yourself.  

While APS is working to get the word out to customers to warn them about the scammers, regrettably, some customers have still fallen victim.

“We have received calls as recent as this week from customers who have received the fraudulent call and, unfortunately, fell victim,” Shaver said. “Informing our customers of this scam – and others like it – is very important to us.” Shaver added that APS security, local law enforcement, and the FBI are currently working together to apprehend the scammers.

Those who have fallen victim to the scammers have minimal options for recouping funds.

“The best course of action is for the customer to contact their bank or credit card provider, or – if they were instructed to and used a prepaid card – contact the customer service number on the back of the card as quickly as possible,” Shaver reported.

Shaver noted that the APS customer service team has been putting out proactive messages, including emails, social media posts, and information on APS.com to alert residential and business customers to this scam. APS has also been working with local media to warn customers, as well as partnering with SRP and contacting city managers to help spread the word and find those responsible for this scam.

Shaver emphasized that understanding the signs of a fraudulent call is the best way for customers to recognize that a scammer is calling them.

“If you receive a call, report it to local law enforcement and to APS right away – providing as much detail as you can,” Shaver said. “If you are unsure as to whether the call is actually fraudulent, ask the caller to provide their employee ID number (all APS employees and contractors have an employee ID number). Call the Customer Care Center to verify the legitimacy of the call and the caller. We have associates available 24/7 to help in any way they can.”

 

Tips to recognize fraudulent calls:

  • Never share credit card information with an unverified source. Customers who pay by credit card at aps.com will be directed to the KUBRA EZ-Pay Web site, which asks the customer to enter a "captcha" validation code.
  • If there is ever a question about the validity of an email, Web site, or person claiming to be an APS representative, call the APS Customer Care Center immediately at (602) 371-7171 in order to verify this information.
  • The only valid numbers to the customer call center are listed on customer bills.
  • Recognize the signs of a phishing email – mismatched fonts, missing hyperlinks, improper grammar, and misspellings.