The Los Altos Police Department and PG&E last week warned local residents about a scam involving thieves fraudulently posing as utility workers.
PG&E initially issued the warning after reports of home burglaries in Vallejo, Oakland and San Carlos. In each case, according to the utility company, thieves dressed as PG&E utility workers to contact the victims in person and stole money and jewelry from them after gaining access to their residences. Company officials noted that they are working with local law enforcement agencies to help resolve the cases.
They also cautioned the public about a second scam in which victims receive calls from thieves posing as PG&E representatives who tell them that their service will be cut off if they fail to pay a past-due bill via credit card, gift card or wiring money from a checking account.
Los Altos Police Chief Tuck Younis told the Town Crier that residents need to be vigilant and report any suspicious activity to police.
“This is really just about making the public aware that this is going on,” said Younis, who added that his department sent out the PG&E warning last week via its Nixle alert system.
Younis noted that Los Altos is no stranger to such scams and that residents should exercise extra caution when approached by anyone claiming to represent a service or agency.
“We’ve had similar incidents occur in the past couple of years in Los Altos,” he said. “A team of two will come to a home, one will distract the victim (and draw them) away from the house while an accomplice enters the home and steals items.”
PG&E officials said residents could take several precautionary steps if approached by someone claiming to represent their company, including asking to see a valid form of identification before allowing anyone posing as a utility worker inside their home.
“Residents can challenge people and ask them for identification,” Younis said. “All legitimate employees from these agencies, including PG&E, have photo IDs that represent them and their company.”
In addition, residents can call PG&E’s customer service line to verify an appointment if they feel uncertain – even after the person claiming to be a PG&E employee produces identification. Customers with appointments receive an automated call back within 48 hours prior to a scheduled visit, according to company officials, or receive a personal call from a PG&E representative ahead of time.
Los Altos customers with concerns about the legitimacy of a call claiming the need for payment on a past-due bill that requires the release of personal information are advised to call PG&E’s customer service line at (800) PGE-5000 or the Los Altos Police Department at 947-2770.