Two scams targeting Palo Alto utilities customers are circulating around the city, and the City of Palo Alto Utilities Department is alerting residents to beware.
On Tuesday, Nov. 20, department Communications Manager Debra Katz sent an email notice to neighborhood leaders about two known scams. Here are the details:
1. Contractor calls claiming to be from "your utility" and wanting to help residents save energy/cut their bills:
a. They may ask to come to the resident's house ... or to sell a product over the phone.
b. One such company known to the department is "Tiger Gas," operating out of Asia, but there are others.
c. The scammers often make reference to PG&E -- a dead giveaway because PG&E is not Palo Alto's utility company.
d. City of Palo Alto Utilities (CPAU) rarely makes "cold" phone calls to customers about its efficiency programs.
During August, in accordance with state regulations, the utilities department hires a telephone survey company to call a sampling of customers to ask about their knowledge of gas safety. But if the department ever did call regarding a program, employees would clearly identify themselves and would explain the reason for the call.
2. Water-leak insurance companies claiming that residents need this insurance against unexpectedly high water bills:
a. Residents will often get a letter in the mail rather than a phone call with this type of scam.
b. A private company will be offering to insure the resident against the expense of a leak on their side of the meter. It is true that residents are responsible for water costs resulting from a leak in their homes, but the utilities department encourages residents to guard against such costs by checking their home plumbing and not ignoring things like "running toilets."
c. The letters or calls sometimes imply the company has connections with the utilities department (they do not).
d. The letters or calls typically exaggerate the likelihood and magnitude of the problem.
e. CPAU does not recommend or endorse such insurance projects.
f. In the event of an undetected leak leading to high water charges, the utilities department recommends residents contact their regular homeowner's insurance representative to see if their existing policy covers such losses (some do and some do not).
When in doubt about whether a caller is affiliated with City of Palo Alto Utilities, residents can call the Customer Services Center at 650-329-2161.