Omaha Public Power District officials say they are receiving an increased number of calls from customers regarding scam phone calls.
As of noon Wednesday the utility has received 60 reports of aggressive callers, trying to con customers out of money. And that number is expected to climb. The con is nothing new. Spokesperson Jodi Baker says pick several times a year to scam people, sometimes after large outage events, like the one on Sunday.
"Callers may be trying to capitalize while customers are feeling vulnerable," Baker says. Often, the scammers use “spoofing” technology so that caller identification appears to show a legitimate OPPD phone number. Callers pretend to be OPPD employees, demanding payment from customers on bills they claim are overdue. In some cases, they claim customers need to pay for equipment, such as meters.
The callers try to get their targets to give up credit, debit or checking account information over the phone to make a payment, or to purchase a payment card, such as a Green Dot card, from a nearby store. With purchased cards, they instruct customers to call them back with the numbers. They threaten to disconnect service soon if customers do not pay.
OPPD stresses that none of these people demanding payments or financial information works for the utility. The utility never cold calls customers demanding payment. OPPD advises customers:
Never give personal or financial information to a stranger during an unsolicited phone call.· If such a person should appear unannounced at one’s door, claiming to work for the utility,
Do not allow them inside. Always ask for identification or verification. OPPD employees always carry identification. Failure to produce identification should be a tip-off to the customer that something is wrong.·
Never turn off security systems for any reason if a stranger asks. Any customer who receives such a request should call law enforcement immediately. Customers with questions about making a payment, or about their account in general, should always call OPPD directly.
Within Omaha, the number is 402-536-4131. Customers in our rural areas may talk with their local offices during business hours, as well. Outside of Omaha, customers should call 1-877-536-4131.