Scam Alert: Electric Bills

Seattle City Light is warning its customers to protect themselves against con artists who are using false threats of disconnecting electrical service in attempts to extort money, especially from small businesses.

In May 2013 customers reported at least fifteen scam attempts to City Light, and other utilities in the Pacific Northwest have reported similar activity since then. In Seattle, the scammers appear to be targeting Asian small businesses.

The con works like this: A person claiming to work for the utility calls a customer and claims the account is overdue. The caller then threatens to cut off electricity service unless payment is made immediately.

One new twist in this old scam has the con artists seeking payment by pre-paid debit cards, which might not have the same fraud-detection features as a credit card.

“Awareness is the best defense against con artists,” Customer Service Director Kelly Enright said. “An immediate demand for payment is a red flag for fraud. Anyone who gets a call like this should get contact information then hang up and call the utility and police.”

Seattle City Light customer service representatives are available at (206) 684-3000 to advise customers of their account status and answer any questions they might have.

Anyone who believes they have been contacted by a scam artist should report the incident to Seattle Police at (206) 625-5011.

Seattle City Light will not shut off a customer’s electricity for one late payment. Before a shut off is ordered, Seattle City Light will send the customer at least two written notifications.  Seattle City Light does NOT telephone customers and threaten to cut off electricity.

Additionally, City Light has programs available for customers who are having trouble paying their electric bills, including a low-income rate assistance program where qualifying customers can save up to 60 percent. Information is available at (206) 684-3417.

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