Aggressive scammers threaten to shut off power unless customers pay with prepaid cards
PNM is warning customers throughout New Mexico to be on the lookout for phone scams during Thanksgiving week.
PNM is receiving reports that scammers are adding a false PNM caller ID name on their phone number to get people to answer, or they leave false call-back phone numbers so that when the call is returned, the caller hears a pre-recorded messages similar to PNM’s, duping callers in thinking it is legitimate.
Once the scammers have you on the phone, they pretends to be with PNM, claim you are behind on your bill, and threaten to disconnect your electricity unless you pay with a pre-paid gift card in an hour or less.
More than 2,500 scam reports have been reported to PNM this year, with nearly 300 reports so far this month. Scammers usually demand between $200-$500 for residential customers and more than $1,000 for business customers.
Spikes in scam reports often occur during the holidays when more people are at home and are dependent on electricity while hosting guests and cooking Thanksgiving meals. Scam reports show that customers went against their better judgment, reacted out of fear, and overlooked the red flags of the scam, explaining they were afraid to be without power over the holidays.
What to watch for:
- Scammer has a caller ID that reads PNM
- Scammer may know your name and address
- Scammer will claim you are past-due on your PNM bill
- Scammer will claim a technician is on their way to disconnect your power within one hour
- Scammer will demand you pay over the phone to prevent power from being disconnected
- Scammer will only take payment over the phone and will only accept a pre-paid card
- If the caller is calling at odd hours, the weekend, or on a holiday, it’s a scam.
What you should do if you receive a call from a suspected scammer:
- Initiate the call yourself. Firmly tell them you will contact PNM directly using the number on your bill, which is 888-DIAL-PNM (888-342-5766).
- Don’t take the claims as truth. Check your own PNM bill to verify your balance.
- Check the clock and calendar. Scammers often call outside of business hours or on the holidays, making it harder for you to verify and causing you to bypass red flags by reacting out of fear. PNM does not shut off power over the weekend or on holidays, and never disconnects power without providing written notice in advance.
- Never give banking information over the phone unless you initiate the call to a number you know is legitimate, even if the caller insists you have a past-due bill, or your electricity will be shut off. PNM does not demand banking information by email or phone and will not force you to pay by phone as your only option.
- If the caller demands payment by a pre-paid card, gift card, or wiring money, it is a scam. Legitimate companies don’t demand payment by cash reload cards like MoneyPak, Vanilla, or Reloadit, gift cards like iTunes or Amazon, or cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin.
- Listen to your instincts. If the caller is convincing but threatening, then simply hang up and initiate contact with PNM yourself.
PNM is working the Federal Bureau of Investigation Internet Crime Complaint Center because these fraudsters are using VoIP telecommunication phone lines to scam customers out of money, which is a federal crime.
PNM and the FBI are asking New Mexico customers for help by reporting the details of any scammers that may have contacted them to the FBI so the agency can track and analyze them against similar scams and suspects.
Reports can be made at www.ic3.gov. PNM is also asking customers to report the same information by calling 888-DIAL-PNM. Find out more about how you can protect yourself and your business from scams about this scam at PNM.com/scam-calls.
The Valencia County News-Bulletin is a locally owned and operated community newspaper, dedicated to serving Valencia County since 1910 through the highest journalistic and professional business standards. The VCNB is published weekly on Thursdays, including holidays both in print and online.