The Courier has learned of a phone scam with individuals pretending to be from Southern California Edison (SCE) targeting residents of Beverly Hills. Local law enforcement and SCE representatives are advising SCE customers in the Beverly Hills area to be aware of what is happening.
The utility has received complaints from at least 10 Beverly Hills customers since the beginning of the year. The customers reported attempted scams totaling $3,500, according to Jeff Monford, a senior advisor in corporate communications and philanthropy at SCE.
“Fortunately, none of these customers have paid the scammers any money,” the SCE advisor told the Courier.
In 2022, there were 15 complaints received from customers in Beverly Hills, Monford said. But the actual numbers could be significantly higher.
“We’re certain many instances of scams go unreported,” he said.
“Sometimes people will call us, but they won’t make a report,” Beverly Hills Police Department Officer Kevin Orth told the Courier. “There are obviously people out there doing this, so we always want people to let us know when it’s happening.”
According to Monford, the most common scenario involves the perpetrators telling the SCE customers that they are behind on payments and have only 45 minutes to pay, or face disconnection. The main method of requested payment is Zelle, the digital payment network used by customers of major banks, or Bitcoin.
Monford reminded customers that SCE will never, under any circumstances, call and threaten disconnection from its service while demanding immediate payment. Furthermore, SCE will never phone a customer to ask for credit card or SCE account information. SCE does not accept prepaid cash cards, bitcoin or payments through third-party mobile apps such as Zelle. The utility does not have a “disconnection department” and SCE employees in the field neither request nor accept payments.
Lt. Reginald Evans, an executive officer with the Beverly Hills Police Department’s media relations, said imposters are constantly updating their deceitful tactics to cheat money out of vulnerable individuals.
“These are cyclical scams with no particular pattern,” Evans said. “Fortunately, when the public starts to contact the real entities at a legitimate phone number, the scam artists move to a different form of scam as the potential victims grow more wise. They do, however, oftentimes revisit the scam at some point in the future, hence the cycle.”