PG&E reports nearly $1 million lost to scammers in 2022, urges caution during National Consumer Protection Week

Published on March 08, 2023 by Chris Galford

© Shutterstock

Joining with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) took this week to educate customers on recognizing and avoiding potential scams as part of the annual National Consumer Protection Week.

Scamming tends to be a crime of opportunity. The company warned that scammers look for times when customers might be distracted or otherwise stressed, blasting out streams of calls, texts, emails, and even in-person contact demanding immediate payment to avoid service disconnections. The COVID-19 pandemic proved particularly egregious for this behavior, particularly as scammers often targeted the most vulnerable, senior citizens and low-income communities among them, but also small business owners during busy service hours, like a lunchtime rush.

In 2022, these efforts led to nearly 23,000 reports of scam attempts from PG&E customers alone. Those scammers impersonated the company and cost customers approximately $946,000 in fraudulent payments – but PG&E also warned this is likely an “at least” situation. Most scam attempts go unreported.

“If you ever receive a call threatening disconnection if you do not make immediate payment, hang up and either call PG&E to confirm your account details or log onto your account on Remember, PG&E will never ask for you for your financial information over the phone or via email, nor will we request payment via prepaid debit cards or other payment services like Zelle,” Matt Foley, lead customer scam investigator for PG&E, said.

Scams can take a number of different forms, but all seek quick gratification for the criminal. Some use aggressive threats to disconnect for alleged past-due bills, claim refunds are owed for overbilling, or float the potential for a rebate that will never materialize. They often turn to things like prepaid debit cards, gift cards, or cryptocurrency for payment. PG&E emphasized that it would never demand a prepaid card to avoid a shutoff nor dictate how a bill payment should be made. The utility also noted that it does it cut off delinquent accounts without advance disconnection notifications, generally by mail.

What is certain is that scam attempts do not seem to be slowing down in the current year. In January 2023 alone, PG&E received 4,800 reports of attempted scams that plundered more than $126,000 from customers.