Impostors posing as utility personnel are contacting Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) residential customers by telephone and threatening immediate service termination as a means of forcing payment for fake account balances, the department reported Wednesday at a press conference.
Speaking with city council members and Los Angeles police, officials say the phony calls have been increasing in frequency in the last few months.
During the phone call, the impostor provides a phone number and instructs customers to purchase pre-paid cash cards for the fictional account balance and then call back once they have the card to provide the unique card number and PIN, and thereby pay their "bill," according to LADWP.
"These thugs are preying on the most vulnerable people in society, particularly seniors on fixed incomes who would be alarmed to hear that their water and power might be cut off," said Patrick Findley, LADWP director of security services and former LAPD captain.
"Safety and service excellence are of the utmost importance to all of us at LADWP, and victimization of our customers will not be tolerated," Findley added. "These impostors, when they are caught, can expect to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."
LADWP offers customers numerous options to pay their bills and customers who choose to pay by phone may only do so through the voice automated payment system, according to police.
LADWP personnel cannot accept payment information verbally over the phone and its personnel will not contact customers by phone and ask for verbal payment, the LAPD added in a statement.
Any customer with questions about being contacted by the LADWP should call (800) DIAL-DWP to confirm that the person contacting him or her is an actual employee of the utility, and people suspecting they are victims of a crime can call Crime Stoppers, (800) 222-TIPS.
- City News Service contributed to this report.