Phone scammers posing as HEA collectors

Phone scammers posing as bill collectors for Homer Electric Association have targeted local business owners, seeking payment for false electric bills and threatening to cut off the target’s power as a way to take the victim’s credit card number and other financial information. HEA announced that it’s received new scam reports on April 18.

HEA hears of about three or four scams a year, Director of Member Relations Bruce Shelley wrote in an email. The recent scammers are more sophisticated than those in the past, displaying false caller ID messages that show HEA as the caller — a practice called “caller ID spoofing.”

Nonetheless, Shelley wrote, the kind of calls they make — requesting financial information and threatening immediate power cut-offs — aren’t part of HEA’s procedure. When HEA is considering shutting off a member’s power because of late payments, they mail notices beforehand. 72 hours before shutting off power, HEA staff hang a notification on the member’s door with a phone number to call before the shut-off.

“We don’t call people when we’re shutting off the power,” Shelley said. “We have them call us.”

Shelley said legitimate callers from HEA ask a member to verify their names, and sometimes verify identities by asking the last four digits of a social security number or a driver’s license number. He recommended that HEA members who suspect a phone call is a scam hang up and notify HEA. Shelley said local police advised him to direct scam reports to the Federal Investigation Bureau’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (found online at www.ic3.gov).

Reach Ben Boettger at bboettger@peninsulaclarion.com

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