HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Just hang up! That's what the Hawaiian Electric Companies recommend as they begin a month-long campaign to alert customers about a recent spike in aggressive phone scams targeting electric customers. If you receive a call from someone saying they're from Hawaiian Electric, Maui Electric or Hawai?i Electric Light demanding immediate payment over the phone or via prepaid debit cards, it's a scam. If the caller says your account is delinquent and threatens to shut off your power immediately unless payment is made, it's a scam. If the caller asks to meet you to pick up a payment, it's a scam.
Simply hang up if you receive such a call and dial the customer service number printed on your electric bill or listed on your company's website. Do not call back the number displayed on your caller ID, even if it says "HECO," "MECO" or "HELCO."
In recent weeks, the companies have received dozens of fraud reports, with some customers paying hundreds of dollars to phone scammers. The scammers have targeted mostly small to mid-size businesses, but residential customers also have been victimized. Scammers often call a business during the busiest times, for example, and threaten to shut off electricity if not paid immediately.
While it's common to see more scams before the holidays, the companies have also noticed more sophistication among the scams, such as the caller ID trick. Scammers are very persistent and aggressive, insisting that a bill is overdue even if the customer is certain it's been paid.