July 5, 2020
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Watch for PG&E and other scammers

By: Irene Hilsendager
January 17, 2020

Having been contacted three times in one week to tell me that I will have my electricity shut off due to non-payment has been a hassle. I am well aware it is a scam and the funny part is they use a different spiel each time they call my number. 

The identification phone number has shown up as unknown, another was a 213-area code supposedly a Los Angles number and the third an 823 Sebastopol number. Having had a number of years while receiving fake calls I have a page of print out area codes to check as I receive the calls.

I have to inject humor into hearing some of the messages that are left, being a female senior, I am offered many different types of pills, someone from China is telling me my social security is in jeopardy and the final straw was the PG&E calls.

One person with a very heavy accent was a real bully. He insisted my electric service will be shut down immediately unless I send in a payment of $199 but it had to be a prepaid cash card.  First, I have never had an electric bill that enormous and who is silly enough to send in a prepaid card. Another one was demanding immediate payment or else. Some callers will even argue with you that they have been given the latest information from such and such company.

Many calls are coming to Sonoma, Lake and Mendocino Counties where many seniors, low-income residents or people that own small businesses are living. Most of the calls are so bogus that the accent should give everybody a clue that PG&E is not making the calls. 

Remember that PG&E does not call their customers demanding money. Other scam calls that have come through with local numbers is that now that you are a senior, you must have some sort of back problems and that social security has approved for you to get a back brace. Why would anybody fall for such a call when you have never notified anybody about back trouble? 

People lose a lot of money to phone scams. Phone scams come in many forms, but they tend to make similar promises and threats or ask you to pay in certain ways. The caller might say that you were “selected” for an offer or that you have won a lottery. But if you have to pay to get the prize, it is not a prize. 

Scammers sometimes pretend to be a law enforcement or a federal agency. Many say you will be arrested, fined or deported if you don’t pay taxes or some other debt immediately. Their goal is to scare you into paying but remember real law enforcement and federal agencies won’t call and threaten you. It is never a good idea to give out your Social Security number to someone who calls you unexpectedly even if they say they are with the IRS.

How many times have I been told that they can lower my interest rate on a credit card, or a student loan can be forgiven if you pay their company a fee first, but you could end up losing your money and ruining your credit.

Scammers love to pose as charities. Years ago, when my father was still alive, he would receive a call every day from the so-called Petaluma Police Department that was looking for money to start a young baseball team. Not until I went through his checkbook did I discover that he was sending the so-called organization $25 a week. I went to the police department and asked about the calls and they said, “Your father has been scammed and no one from this department ever calls and requests funds.” The next day I waited by my father’s phone and when the call came through I asked for their supervisor and we all know there wasn’t any supervisor within five miles and I said I had been to the police department and reported the scam he immediately hung up and was never heard from again.

Even if it’s not a scammer call and if a company is calling you illegally, it is not a company you would want to do business with. When you get a robocall, don’t press any numbers. Instead of letting you speak to a live operator or remove you from their call list, it might just lead to more robocalls.

Scammers can make any name or number show up on your caller ID. That is called spoofing. Even if it looks like it is a government agency calling, or a call from a local number, it could be a scammer calling from anywhere in the world. 

Now days we all have to be aware of criminals in one form or another. The best advice is if you do not recognize the numbers, let it go into the voice mail and if it is important enough they will leave a message and you may call them back. We have to learn to fight for our rights as we all work too hard to be taken by con people or scammers.