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October 2009
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CityLink Seattle

Bill Collection Scam Resurfaces



Seattle City Light urges its customers to guard against telephone con artists posing as utility bill collectors who appear to be targeting customers with Asian surnames.

“It is unfortunate in these challenging economic times that some people try to take advantage of others with the false threat of cutting off their electricity,” Customer Service Director Kelly Enright said. “Seattle City Light wants to help its customers protect themselves and the best way to do that is to be informed.”

“If someone asks for your credit card number over the phone, don’t give it to them,” Enright said. “We do not demand immediate payment to avoid a shutoff for one late payment.”

In the past few days, several customers have reported phone calls from con artists claiming to be City Light employees. At least four of those customers had Asian-sounding surnames.

In the scam, the callers claimed there were problems with payment of the customers’ bills – as little as $16 – and demanded immediate credit card payments to resolve the matter. This is similar to incidents reported to City Light during the past several years. Fortunately, the customers did not give out their credit card or bank account information and called City Light to report the incident.

If a customer is behind on his or her bill and at risk of having the power turned off, City Light sends at least two written warnings asking the customer to contact the utility directly to make a payment.

City Light also wants to remind customers:

  • Seattle City Light accepts credit card payments at a customer’s request, but never demands or solicits credit card information to pay a bill.
  • Seattle City Light does not call customers on weekends.
  • Seattle City Light employees carry identification with the City Light logo and will always display it when asked.

All City Light customers are advised to take down the name and telephone number of anyone who calls and represents themselves as a City Light employee. Also, before customers provide any credit information, they should call City Light at 684-3000 to verify that the request is legitimate. If a customer believes he or she has been contacted by a con artist, they are urged to contact the Seattle Police Department at (206) 625-5011 to report the incident.

Seattle City Light is the ninth largest public electric utility in the United States.  It has the lowest cost customer rates of any urban utility, providing reliable, renewable and environmentally responsible power to nearly 1 million Seattle area residents.  City Light has been greenhouse gas neutral since 2005, the first electric utility in the nation to achieve that distinction.