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Amid public safety power shutoffs, watch out for scam callers

Power companies have warned customers in recent years about scam callers who impersonate the utility and demand payment, threatening to cut off service.
Credit: Kyle Iboshi

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.

Utility companies in Oregon have warned ratepayers in recent years about a rise in scammers targeting power utility customers through calls, texts, emails, fake bills and even in-person visits.

RELATED: Phony PGE workers threaten to shut off power in latest phone scam

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.

OTHER WILDFIRE STORIES: Here's what the air quality is expected to be like this weekend in Oregon, Washington

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.

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