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City warns residents about increase in holiday scams, new tactic

Scam alert
Scam alert(WAFB)
Published: Nov. 16, 2021 at 6:23 PM CST
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - The City of Lubbock is warning the public about an increase in scams this holiday season. City of Lubbock Utilities Spokesman Matt Rose says telephone scams always spike this time of year because more people are away from home.

“Really, if you look at like the last you know, 20 days, we went from seeing kind of one or two scam phone calls to seeing hundreds of scam phone calls.”

Scammers impersonate utility workers over the phone, trying to convince customers they have a debt to pay within the hour. If they don’t, they’re told trucks are ready in the alley to cut their electricity. Rose says he’s also seeing scammers use a new tactic.

“What we’ve seen here in the last couple of weeks are customers being contacted where a live person is not telling them to pay their bill at risk of disconnection, but they’re telling them that they overpaid on their account and that they need routing numbers or information so they can send these excess payments back to the customer.”

Con artists can easily fake a utility company caller ID, making them seem legit. Rose says they also use the holidays to their advantage, with more people spending time with family, going on shopping trips, and vacations out of town.

“And many times what they’re hoping is that they catch somebody who is away from Lubbock, visiting family, and they catch them at a holiday function. And that person gets scared that, is my electricity cut off back at home? I need to do something. And they’re hoping that that’ll be the case.”

Rose says the real City of Lubbock Utilities will never demand payment right then and there, especially not over the phone.

“The best thing to do is just hang up the phone, is just to hang up the phone, because of any information that you give to these individuals they can use to try to steal your identification or any number of things.”

Rose says if you get a scam call like this, call a customer service representative or check your balance online. The number to call is 806-775-2509 or visit https://www.cityoflubbockutilities.com/.

The Federal Trade Commission says imposter scams were the top fraud category in 2020, costing people nearly $1.2 billion.

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