Be careful the next time you pick up the phone. A series of phone scams from fake PECO representatives is circulating throughout the region.
PECO Spokesperson Ben Armstrong says that since 2012, customers have been contacting PECO regarding a new kind of phone scam.
In this scam, the caller, pretending to be a PECO representative, says that the customer is “in arrears” or has a balance on their account. The “representative” threatens to terminate the service of the customer that day. To prevent this halt in power, customers are asked to purchase a Green Dot Visa card for a given amount. The customer then gives a call to a number provided by the “representative”, provides the information for the Green Dot card, and the funds on the card are wiped by the scammer.
The amount requested by the scammers has varied from $25 to as high as $2000 according to Armstrong. Customers impacted have been both residential and business.
There have been 1,227 reported cases since 2012, according to Armstrong. Of that number, 765 have occurred so far this year and 338 in June alone. Armstrong says that of the customers that have reported the scam, only 188 have fallen for it.
PECO says they are notifying customers of the scam through newsletters, bill inserts, and notices in the PECO Crown Lights. Since 2012, the number of people who have fallen for the scam has fallen to 17 percent.
Armstrong says there are a few ways to recognize if a call from PECO is in fact a scam. Customers can ask for the representative to read out their account number, current balance, or the amounts of any previous payment to PECO.
“If someone from PECO were calling, they would be able to know specific account information beyond just your name and address,” Armstrong says. “The scammers would not know this specific information like account balance or account number.”
Also, PECO will give advanced warning about a termination of service. According to Armstrong, the customer would receive multiple notifications on red letterhead, written communication 10 days before service would be cancelled, another communication 72 hours before service is to be terminated, several phone calls within 48 hours and 24 hours of termination, and finally a knock on the door by a PECO technician.
If a call seems suspicious, PECO encourages customers to immediately hang up and call PECO directly at 1-800-494-4000. In addition, they say to call your local police department immediately.