Bellingham residents hit by scam PSE bill-collecting calls

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDApril 3, 2014 

BELLINGHAM - Whatcom County residents should think twice if they get a call from Puget Sound Energy threatening to cut their power if they don't provide the caller with bank information.

The power-cutting threat is a scam that has been reported by individuals and small businesses around town, according to the Bellingham Police Department.

The most recent reported attempt occurred April 2, when a Bellingham business got a call from someone posing as a PSE employee who threatened to cut the power unless money was wired right away. The business didn't give in to the threats and instead called police.

PSE told police that the caller was not an employee.

"It's just a different twist on the same scam to try to scare people, to create a crisis to get you to drop your guard and give them financial information," said Detective Al Jensen.

Scammers might pretend to be from any number of service providers, whether it's a natural gas company, telephone company or cellphone carriers, Jensen said. But no legitimate business is going to ask for banking information on a cold call like that, he said.

"They're going to be very pushy," Jensen said of the scammers. "They're going to threaten immediate disconnection for lack of payment. They're pushing you, trying to create an emergency situation where you let your guard down.

"If they're asking for bank information or payment over the telephone, don't give that information out. That's not common business practice."

Reach ZOE FRALEY at zoe.fraley@bellinghamherald.com or call 756-2803.

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