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Scammers posing as EWEB threaten to shut off power 'within an hour' unless payment made

The calls have been convincing: the scammers have been able to trick caller ID into recognizing the incoming call as an EWEB phone. If you have any doubts about a call from EWEB, hang up and call (541) 685-7000, the utility said Tuesday. (SBG photo)

EUGENE, Ore. - Scammers are calling small businesses claiming to be with the Eugene Water & Electric Board - and threatening to turn off the power.

The calls have been convincing: the scammers have been able to trick caller ID into recognizing the incoming call as an EWEB phone. If you have any doubts about a call from EWEB, hang up and call (541) 685-7000, the utility said Tuesday.

"The scammers are creating a sense of urgency and threatening to disconnect power within an hour or so if payment is not made in cash," the utility said in a statement. "EWEB never makes such arrangements with customers who are past due. EWEB’s approved payment methods will always be listed on our website."

EWEB sometimes does call customers as a "last effort" at least 48 hours prior to shut-off to prevent disconnection. This is never the first attempt at settling a bill, the utility said.

Instead, EWEB will notify customers on a monthly bill with "Due Upon Receipt." The final notice is also mailed to a customer.

"Be suspicious of any phone calls or emails that claim to be urgent and require immediate action to prevent shut-off of any of your utility services," EWEB said in a press release. "If a customer's account is past due, they’ve already received at least two notices alerting them."

Also of note: EWEB will never ask customers to purchase pre-paid cards to settle a bill. "If the caller asks you to make a payment using a pre-paid card over the phone, that caller is not with EWEB," the utility said.

EWEB also urged you to avoid phishing scams via email. Notices will only be sent by email to customers enrolled in EWEB's e-Billing system.

"Never follow links embedded in emails that threaten to shut off service if you don't make an immediate payment," EWEB cautions. "Use your bookmarked site to visit EWEB's e-Billing system and login to your account to check your payment status and make secure online payments."

If you think you've been the target of this or another scam, report what happened to the Oregon Attorney General's office by calling the consumer hotline at 877-877-9392 (Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) or by emailing help@oregonconsumer.gov.

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