PORTLAND, Ore. — Oregon's hot, dry and windy weather conditions this weekend are putting the region at high risk for wildfires, prompting Portland General Electric and Pacific Power to take the unusual step of pre-emptively scheduling limited power outages to make sure their equipment doesn't spark a blaze.
The utility companies have tried to be proactive about notifying affected customers to make sure they have time to prepare, but the outages also raise concerns about another power-related nuisance.
The scammers typically impersonate utility officials and claim that customers have "overdue bills" that they must pay immediately to avoid getting their power shut off.
A KGW viewer reached out this week to report that they'd received a PGE scam call, but with the added twist of coming at a time when power really is being shut off for tens of thousands of Oregon customers this weekend — but of course, the shutoffs are due to wildfires rather than unpaid bills, and power will be restored to everyone as soon as it's safe to do so.
In a fraud alert earlier this year, PGE offered several tips to help ratepayers spot potential scams.
- PGE always provides multiple opportunities for payment before shutting off service, so if a caller threatens to turn off power immediately, that's a red flag.
- Scammers commonly ask for amounts just under $500 or $1,000, so be suspicious if you hear numbers in that range, particularly if you don't think you owe that much.
- Scammers will often ask for payment with a pre-paid card or via an app like Zelle or Venmo. PGE will never ask for payment using any of those methods.
- Proceed with caution even if your called ID says PGE or Portland General Electric. It could still be a scam.
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PGE and Pacific Power both told KGW on Friday that they have not received any more reports than usual about scam calls so far this week.