Police warn businesses of telephone scam

Laguna Beach police sent an alert last week to area businesses warning of an apparent telephone scam that demands immediate payment for allegedly past-due electricity bills, according to a police news release.

Impostors have been calling Southern California Edison customers stating they must make immediate payment on past due bills or their electric service will be disconnected, the release said.

The callers also demand payment be made through a prepaid cash card, such as a PayPal or Green Dot card.

Callers are apparently targeting Laguna restaurants, according to police.

"[On Wednesday], we were contacted by a local restaurant that was called by the scammers," Sgt. Louise Callus wrote in an email. "The business owner realized what was going on and did not fall victim to the scammers. Last time around, the scammers were calling dry cleaners. This time, it may be restaurants."

Edison reminds customers to ask for identification when a stranger comes to the door or calls claiming to be a utility worker, the release said.

The company's utility workers will provide verification, including their department and phone number, when asked. In most cases, home visits by Edison are scheduled by the customer and the company will confirm the appointment in writing.

"Customers suspecting a fraudulent call should ask for the caller's name, department and business phone number," Henry Martinez, Edison's vice president of safety, security and compliance, said in the release. "If the caller refuses to provide this information, customers should terminate the call and report the incident immediately to local police at (949) 497-0701 or Edison at (800) 655-4555."

Edison reminds customers that one of its employees will never ask for money in person, and for the public to never give out credit, debit or calling-card numbers, the release said.

"If someone calls and requests you leave your residence at a specific time for a utility-related cause, call the police," according to the release. "This could be a burglary set up by the caller."

Edison serves 12,300 residents and businesses in Laguna Beach, according to an August Coastline Pilot story.

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