Washington Utilities warns of scam

Published 9:47 pm Monday, January 27, 2014

The City of Washington is doing its part to prevent its customers from falling prey to phone scammers.

Recently, the City has received several reports of utilities representatives calling customers to demand payment information or else risk have utilities disconnected immediately. City officials, and law enforcement officials, say these calls are scams, and the callers are attempting to get personal account information.

In an effort to forewarn residents, the following call went out Tuesday evening to Washington Utilities customers: “This is an important message from Washington Utilities regarding a scam targeting our utility customers. The Better Business Bureau is warning consumers about a scam that involves someone calling utility customers indicating that their bill is past due and threatening disconnection if immediate payment is not made. Washington Utilities never contacts customers to demand immediate payment to avoid disconnection of service. If you suspect or experience this fraud, please call the local police department to report the crime. You may also contact Washington Utilities to speak with a representative about your utility account.”

According to Matt Rauschenbach, the City’s finance director, no representative of Washington Utilities will ever directly contact utilities customers seeking account information or payment. Washington Utilities will only send out calls to utilities customers regarding past due accounts and accounts scheduled to be disconnected, or when the agency needs to communicate with customers during emergency situations. Even then, the calls are automated messages that relay information only — the calls are never made by anyone requesting information, Rauschenbach said.

“The city will not ever threaten to cut off anyone’s utilities and demand them to give any personal information over the phone,” Rauschenbach said. “If (customers) have any questions at all about their utilities, we suggest they hang up and call the city.”

Rauschenbach said anyone who receives such a call from someone purporting to represent Washington Utilities should report the call to officials.

“They need to hang up on the individual,” Rauschenbach said. “Don’t give them any information.”

Rauschenbach also expressed Washington Utilities’ need to have current phone numbers for its customers to ensure all message from the agency reach its customers.