Brownsville PUB warns about high-pressure phone scam tactics


POSTED: Monday, August 11, 2014 - 1:08pm

UPDATED: Tuesday, August 12, 2014 - 7:26am

The Brownsville Public Utilities Board (BPUB) warns utility customers of a theft scam involving unsolicited phone calls in which callers claiming to work for BPUB repeatedly pressure victims by saying they are at risk of having services disconnected because of an unpaid utility bill, returned check from previous payment, meter malfunction or a needed meter replacement.

According to reports, a person posing as a BPUB employee tells the customer that services will be disconnected unless a specified amount is paid toward the account. The customer is told to purchase a pre-paid money card and then call back with the card details.

BPUB customers were warned about this scam earlier this year. This latest round of reports includes customers receiving multiple phone calls from the same person. The caller asserts that crews are on their way to the residence or business to disconnect the electricity and payment must be made over the phone to avoid a service disruption. Reports also indicate that the scam callers will speak both English and Spanish.

Utility customers can avoid being victimized if they:
• Do not provide Social Security numbers, credit card numbers or bank account information to anyone who requests it during an unsolicited call or in-home visit.
• Only make a payment to a BPUB cashier, on the BPUB website, at a registered pay station or through the automated phone service.
• Verify calls claiming to represent the local utility company. To verify BPUB collection calls, please call (956) 983-6121.
• Do not allow anyone into your home to check electrical wiring or water pipes unless an appointment has been scheduled or a utility problem has been reported.
• Ask utility employees to provide legitimate photo identification and call BPUB to verify employment.

BPUB does not use live operators to make collection calls. Customers behind on payments may receive a call with a recorded message regarding a past due balance. Unsolicited requests for payments, personal information and bank routing numbers should be reported to the Brownsville Police Department at (956) 548-7000 or by visiting the nearest community police station.

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