The City of Palo Alto has been receiving reports of fraudulent phone calls from scammers posing as the City Utilities Department. The callers demand payment and threaten to turn off power.
The scammers claim to be from the City of Palo Alto Utilities (CPAU), tell people that their account is past due and demand money or else their power will be shut off. Customers may be provided a phone number to call, which has a recording of the City Utilities phone tree hotline message. If you receive a phone call like this, please note the caller’s number and hang up!
The City does not conduct business in this way. We never demand utilities account payment over the phone.
If you receive a scam phone call, please contact the Palo Alto Police Department at (650) 329-2413 to file a Police Report. You may also want to contact the FTC at 1-877-FTC-HELP or file a complaint online.
How the scams typically work
The scammers call using various official-sounding credentials. For example, they may claim that they are an employee of Palo Alto Utilities, PG&E (Pacific Gas & Electric), or “The Disconnect Department”. The suspects try to convince you that your utilities bill is past due, and that your power will be shut off in several hours if you do not send money right away to address a past due balance. The suspects may tell business owners that the utilities employees are outside their business, ready to disconnect their service if payment is not made.
The scammers may provide a call back number which has the CPAU Customer Service hotline recording. In other situations, the scammers may request the customer provide credit card information, cash, or other methods of payment.
How you know it is a scam
The City of Palo Alto provides its own utility services for residents and businesses, so if someone claims to be from PG&E and demands utility account payment, you know it is not legitimate. Plus, the City will not demand utilty account payment over the phone. When a customer has not paid their bill, CPAU sends out multiple written warnings prior to turning off power.
What to do if contacted by a scammer
If you receive a call from someone claiming to be from the Utilities Department and asking for money or other personal information, please hang up and call the Palo Alto Utilities Customer Service Center at (650) 329-2161 to verify your account information. As some scammers can make it look like they are calling from our number, if you see that number, please do not assume it is us. If it is a Palo Alto Utilities Department employee that actually called you, our Utilities Customer Service Representative will be able to verify the call and further assist you.
The City has notified the Police and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) of this fraudulent activity and misrepresentation of the City of Palo Alto. The FTC advises each consumer/customer to contact them to file a official complaint report of these fraudulent calls. You should also file a report with the Palo Alto Police Department at (650) 329-2413.
If you receive a scam call, please follow these instructions:
You can always contact Utilities Customer Service at (650) 329-2161 if you need to talk with a Customer Service Representative.