OPPD is warning that scammers are calling its customers, pretending to work for the utility company and demanding money. Some tree trimmers also are falsely presenting themselves as OPPD crews.
As of 4 p.m., the Omaha Public Power District had received about 125 reports of scam phone calls, the utility said Wednesday in a statement.
“This is one of the highest totals of reports we’ve seen in a single day,” said spokeswoman Jodi Baker.
Scammers have been targeting utility customers across the country for years, OPPD said. The scams occur several times a year, sometimes after large outages such as Sunday’s, which cut off power to about 57,000 customers.
The scammers often use spoofing technology so that caller identification appears to show a legitimate OPPD phone number. Callers pretend to be OPPD employees, demanding payment on bills they claim are overdue. In some cases, they claim customers need to pay for meters or other equipment.
“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,” OPPD said. “With purchased cards, they instruct customers to call them back with the numbers.”
OPPD said it never cold-calls customers demanding payment.
The utility has this advice for 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 let the person inside. Always ask for identification because OPPD employees always carry company ID.
- Never turn off security systems for any reason if a stranger requests that. Any customer who receives such a request should call law enforcement immediately.
- OPPD never asks for payment for trimming trees.
- The only contractors approved by OPPD for trimming trees on its behalf are Asplundh and Wright.
Customers with questions about making a payment, or about their account in general, should call OPPD directly. Within Omaha, the phone number is 402-536-4131. Outside Omaha, customers should call 1-877-536-4131.