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Jun 21, 2013 7:59 PM

TEP warns of phone scam

TUCSON - Tucson Electric Power company is warning its customers about a phone scam.

Joe Barrios, a spokesman for the company said the calls began in October but have spiked this month. In June alone, two dozen customers contacted the company regarding the scam. There were two reports of calls last month.

A statement on the website says, "A caller claiming to be a TEP employee contacts a customer and says that electric service is in danger of being shut off because of unpaid bills or because the customers meter is replaced. In most cases, the caller instructs the customer to purchase a pre-paid money card and then call a specific number to avoid loss of service.TEP will only contact customers by phone with bill payment reminders as a courtesy. In cases where customers are behind on their payments, TEP first sends pink disconnect notices before shutting off electric service. TEP never asks customers to purchase pre-paid money cards to pay a monthly bill."

Lauri Privett owns a home-based business called Personally Delivered, LLC. Her employee Pat Bush took the call from a 480 prefix last week, "he said, we're going to cut you off at 1, and I can't stop that from here. I said, well there has to be something we can do and he was just very adamant that that wasn't his job. His job was to call me as a courtesy to inform me that the electricity was going to be turned off."

The company has an office in Tucson and in Phoenix. Bush pulled the records and found the payments had been paid but was concerned when the caller mentioned a similar amount from a previous statement. "I never heard of having such a short cut off. That surprised me a lot. I thought maybe something got so messed up that the wrong account or it could be anything," Bush recalled.

Privett called the number back and after asking several questions the man hung up, "I don't think there's any way anyone could ever hack into our system we have a very secure system as far as our bookkeeping and our computers."

Barrios said the company has not had a breach in security that would compromise customer data. However, he said the company was cooperating with local authorities and the U.S. Postal Service in the investigation. Barrios said anyone who suspects they may be the victim of a TEP scam should call their customer care line at (520) 623-7711.

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