Watch out for phone fraud

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Watch out for phone fraud

By Craig Smith. CREATED Sep 9, 2013

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - It's bad enough getting a call from a bill collector but it's even worse when it's a bogus call designed to steal your money. That's what Tucson Electric and some of its customers are talking about.

It's a call calculated to put you in a panic: Pay up or your electricity's cut in a half hour.  TEP customers have been getting calls like that, but they have no connection to TEP.

Cliff Schneider of Rincon Cleaners has probably heard too many jokes about being taken to the cleaners.  But that did not happen to him, when a threatening call came in to his dry cleaning business.

He says, "Somebody was telling her that in 35 minutes they were gonna shut our electric power off."
The caller said he was with TEP and Cliff's payment was overdue.

But Cliff knew better: "I just happened to have the bill in front of me on my desk and I double checked it.  It was fine."
When he called TEP he found he was too smart to fall for a popular scheme.   The caller tries to scare you into making an immediate payment, and usually demands something like a pre-paid credit card.
Joe Barrios of TEP says some customers even received calls where the Caller ID was rigged to look like the call really was from Tucson Electric.

"But the call is not coming from us.  The best thing to do is if a customer gets a phone call and they suspect something's wrong or it sounds suspicious, they should hang up and then call us directly."
So many people have received these calls, TEP put a special warning on its website, in the Phoenix area, Arizona Public Service is warning its customers too.
So what if Cliff Schneider had a chance to go face to face with whoever's behind the bogus calls?

He laughed as he said, "I wouldn't have very kind things to say to him.  I'm getting too old to beat up on his but that's what I'd feel like doing."

TEP says if you are behind it will mail you a notice and sometimes follow up with a call but never threaten to leave you in the dark in a matter of minutes.  Again, if you have any doubt a call you get is from TEP, hang up.  Then call customer service at (520) 623-7711 so you can be confident you really are reaching the company.

Craig Smith

Craig Smith

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Craig enjoys using innovative writing and visuals to make difficult stories easier to understand. As a newsroom manager at KGUN 9, Craig was part of the team that won three best newscast awards from Arizona Associated Press