LADWP Warns Customers About Scammers Using Zelle, Venmo to Try to Steal Their Money
LOS ANGELES (November 15, 2023) – With increased reports of customers targeted by scammers attempting to steal their money, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) is joining utilities nationwide to sound the alarm and raise awareness about utility scams.
LADWP joins Utilities United Against Scams (UUAS) in support of International Fraud Awareness Week and observance of the eighth annual Utility Scam Awareness Day on Wednesday, November 15. Utility Scam Awareness Day is an advocacy and awareness campaign focused on educating customers about, and exposing, scammer tactics.
In recent years, LADWP and other utilities have seen increased reports of customers being contacted by people who pose as utility workers in an attempt to access their financial information or to obtain immediate payment by threatening service interruptions.
One of the most common scam tactics reported to LADWP is where a caller pretending to be an LADWP employee demands that a customer pay their bill using third-party digital mobile payment methods, such as Cash App, Zelle or Venmo. LADWP does not accept payment through these methods.
“We will never ask a customer for Zelle or Venmo or send a customer to a local drug store or liquor store to pay their bill via an ATM or Crypto currency machine,” said George Rofail, LADWP Chief Customer Officer. “Sadly, we receive reports from customers who complied with these scam requests and lost their money.”
The theme of this year’s UUAS campaign is “Screen the Search,” which reflects the rise in utility impostor scams through digital methods, including search engine-related scams.
Digital scam tactics that customers should be aware of include:
- Sponsored ads on search engines that lead to an identical—but fake—utility bill payment page
- QR codes that scammers falsely claim link to a utility payment page
- Texts from a scammer claiming to be a utility representative, with a link to an impostor payment page
“Utility impostor scammers continue to grow more sophisticated in their tactics. Increasingly, we are seeing scammers use digital methods that target both younger and older generations. We encourage customers to stop and verify any unusual utility company requests before making a payment, regardless of whether the customer is contacted via phone, internet, or in person,” said UUAS Executive Director Monica Martinez.
UUAS, a consortium of more than 150 U.S. and Canadian electric, water, and natural gas utilities and their respective trade associations, has raised customer awareness of common scams and new scam tactics used by utility impostors since its founding in 2016.
The best defense against getting scammed is know the signs of a scam and to know LADWP polices. Signs of a scam include:
- A threat to cut your service unless an immediate payment is made.
- Telling you to pay using bitcoin, prepaid cards, or third-party payments apps like Venmo and Zelle.
- Pressuring you to act fast.
“If customers receive a call demanding payment like this, we urge you to stop, slow down and even hang up. Then, call us directly or check your account status online at ladwp.com 24/7,” Rofail said. “Just taking that one step can save you from theft.”
If the caller tells the customer that their last payment was not processed, LADWP suggests customers verify their payment was processed with their banking institution as opposed to sending money to the caller.
Customers who suspect that they have been victims of fraud or who feel threatened during contact with a scammer should contact local law enforcement authorities. The Federal Trade Commission also provides additional information about protecting personal information and other information regarding impostor scams. LADWP customers can report suspected scams online at www.ladwp.com/scamalert