Scam artists continue to target Austin Energy customers with new twist

October 1, 2018

Adding a new twist, scammers are now targeting City of Austin utility customers with email attacks.

Three City of Austin utility customers have reported receiving emails that on first glance appear to be from Austin Energy, using the Austin Energy logo, claiming to be a disconnect notice with a disconnect number. In the email, customers are asked to call an 888 number. The message on that phone line sounds as if the caller has contacted Austin Energy.

The email also contains a QR code, which if scanned, takes a customer to a Bitcoin site. Bitcoin is a form of electronic cash/digital currency without a central bank or single administrator that can be sent from user-to-user on the peer-to-peer bitcoin network. The City does not ask customers to pay their bills with Bitcoin.

This new method is in addition to phone calls and at least one report of a door-to-door visit, demanding money and threatening to cut off utility services if immediate payment wasn’t made over the phone. Over the last three weeks, the City of Austin Utilities Customer Care Call Center has received at nearly 300 calls from customers about the various scams.

What customers need to know

  • If you receive a phone call or email threatening to interrupt service, demanding immediate payment, or requesting credit card, Bitcoin or bank account information, hang up and dial 3-1-1 or 512-974-2000 and report the incident immediately.
  • If you are uncertain of your account status, visit our Online Customer Care Portal or call 512-494-9400.
  • Payments can also be made by calling 1-800-959-7063, which connects the customer to the City of Austin’s automated utilities payment service (Bill Matrix) to make a payment via credit or debit card or electronic check. City of Austin customer service representatives may give customers this web address or phone number but will NOT ask for a customer’s credit card number to accept payment.   
  • Protect yourself. City of Austin staff will never ask you to buy a gift card and read off the numbers to them.
  • Customers can make payments at the city’s two walk-in service centers or the following authorized locations: most Austin Austin H-E-B stores, ACE Cash Express, Money Box, Fiesta Mart and Randall’s. Staff at authorized locations will ask to see the customer’s utility bill statement before accepting payment.

City of Austin walk-in service centers

  • Utility Service Center (east branch) Rosewood-Zaragosa Center, 2800 Webberville Road, Suite 110, Austin, Texas 78702
  • Utility Customer Service Center (north branch), 8716 Research Blvd, Suite 115, Austin, Texas 78758 (near Ohlen Road and Highway 183)

Customers are also encouraged to report utility scams to the Federal Trade Commission.  

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