Last month we became aware of people falsely claiming to be Bluebonnet employees or contractors attempting to trick our members into paying supposedly late electric bills with prepaid money cards. The scam targeted Spanish-speaking members with residential and commercial accounts in the Bastrop area. Austin Energy also reported that its customers were being targeted, too.
Unfortunately, the scammers have widened the area in which they’re operating to include Bastrop, Lee, Washington and Fayette counties. And I learned this week that Pedernales Electric Cooperative’s members are being targeted, too.
The scam is targeting primarily, but not only, Spanish-speaking members with residential and commercial accounts. The scammers started out using out-of-state phone numbers, but recently have been calling from numbers with Texas area codes, particularly 512 and 830.
Bluebonnet is working with other co-ops and local law enforcement agencies that are handling the case.
“If you get a call from someone pretending to collect payments for Bluebonnet who tells you to pay your bill using a prepaid money card, do not pay,” said Mark Rose, Bluebonnet’s general manager. “Get as much information about the caller as possible, including the phone number from caller ID, and call Bluebonnet or your local law enforcement as soon as possible.
“The more information we have about the people doing this, the more likely we will be to prevent any further fraud and to catch the people responsible for it.”
If you are contacted by someone pretending to be a Bluebonnet employee or contractor who is collecting payments, call Bluebonnet at 800-842-7708 between 7 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, or your local law enforcement as soon as possible.
Bluebonnet wants its members to be aware of co-op procedures in order to protect themselves from fraud. Bluebonnet’s process for working with members with delinquent accounts is clear and consistent. Bluebonnet makes at least two attempts to contact its members – by mail and by courtesy call – within two weeks of a delinquent payment’s due date to offer payment options using a debit or credit card.
“It’s very difficult to catch the people who are operating this type of scam,” Rose said. “Being aware of this scam is the best way to stop it. We encourage everyone to know the current status of their account and to tell the other people in their household or business who might also pay the bills so they don’t fall victim to this scam.”
Visit our website for more information about this scam or call member services at 800-842-7708, Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.