Scam Alert: HECO impersonators using technology to fake caller I - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Scam Alert: HECO impersonators using technology to fake caller ID

Posted: Updated:
Darren Pai Darren Pai
Ann Nishida Fry Ann Nishida Fry
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

The Hawaiian Electric Companies are alerting customers about a scam in which utility impersonators use technology to trick people checking their caller ID.

Dozens of small businesses, mainly ethnic restaurants, have been targeted. A customer recently recorded a phony call from a HECO impersonator. The scammer warned that the electricity was about to be cut off due to a missed payment.

Caller: "You need to purchase two MoneyPaks. One for $500 and one for $487.46."

Customer: "And who do I make it to?"

Caller: "Give it to the technician once he arrives at your location in order to stop the disconnection."

Customer: "Oh, that's all I have to do. And if I pay him this when he comes in 20 minutes I don't have to lose my electricity at my business?"

Caller: "No they will not disconnect your power."

"It's basically an electronic means of transferring money and we want to caution our customers that this is not a legitimate means of paying your electric bill. We would never ask our customers to go out and purchase this product," said HECO spokesman Darren Pai.

Sometimes the caller ID even shows the call is from Hawaiian Electric to fool customers into thinking the scammer is legitimate. Some websites allow users to disguise their real number by choosing someone else's digits. You can also change your voice to sound like a man or woman.

"As a precaution, we advise that you treat any incoming call that requests personal information as potential fraud," said Hawaiian Telcom spokesperson Ann Nishida Fry.

The spoofing services are legal and they indicate that fraudulent use to cause harm is prohibited. As scams become more sophisticated, it's important for people to be on alert.

"A number of our customers have called and reported it to us and checked it out and thankfully, they haven't fallen victim to any scams, said Pai. "But we don't know, there are possibly some customers who have."

If customers receive a suspicious call from someone claiming to represent the company, the Hawaiian Electric Companies encourage customers to call their respective Customer Service Centers at:

  • Oahu: 548-7311
  • Maui: 871-9777
  • Molokai and Lanai: 1-877-871-8461 (toll free)
  • Hilo: 969-6999
  • Kona: 329-3584
  • Waimea: 885-4605

In addition, the Hawaiian Electric Companies are reminding customers not to provide personal, confidential, or financial information to any unidentified individual and urge customers to exercise caution when responding to phone calls from unidentified individuals. If customers feel unsure about the identity of a caller, they should feel free to hang up and call their utility's Customer Service Center. Report any suspicious activity to police.

Reports may also be made to Hawaiian Telcom's Nuisance Call Bureau. Hawaiian Telcom customers can call 643-7111 between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. on weekdays with reports of harassing, illegal, threatening or obscene calls.  Depending on the nature of the nuisance call, a specialized team will then either investigate or recommend options to manage unwanted or annoying phone calls.  Some options may entail additional charges.

Recently, many electric customers have reported that they were directed to pay their utility bills by purchasing certain types of money vouchers called MoneyPak. This is not a legitimate method of making payments on electric bills.

Customers may report fraud cases directly to MoneyPak by calling 1-800-GREEN DOT through the company's website using the "Report Fraud" tab:

Customers wishing to pay their electric bills in person may do so at Hawaiian Electric's customer service offices in Honolulu, at Maui Electric's Kahului and Molokai business offices, or at Hawaii Electric Light's office in Hilo, Kona or Waimea.

In addition, other legitimate payment options include: 

  • U.S. mail
    • Oahu: PO Box 3978, Honolulu, HI 96812-3978
    • Hawaii Island: PO Box 909, Honolulu, HI 96808-0909
    • Maui, Lanai, Molokai: PO Box 1670, Honolulu, HI 96806-1670
  • Online at www.hawaiianelectric.com; www.mauielectric.com; or www.hawaiielectriclight.com
  • Walk-in payments may be made at First Hawaiian Bank, Walmart, or Western Union locations (Foodland, Kmart, Sack-N-Save, Safeway, Times Supermarket)
  • By Phone through charge, checking/savings debit card, or electronic check (Fees Apply)
    • Residential customers, please call 1-888-813-2207
    • Commercial customers, please call 1-888-813-2215

Here are some additional safety tips from HECO:

  • Be careful when taking calls from an unidentified phone number; phone scammers will want to remain anonymous.
  • Scammers may use technology to fake a caller ID, so don't be afraid to ask questions. Get the caller's name, phone number and company name. That might deter phone scammers from continuing the conversation.
  • Hawaiian Electric employees would not direct you to make a payment at any location other than our customer service offices and the customer service desks of those sites noted above.

 

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