Palo Alto Utilities Department warns against scam

Automated call alleges 16 percent rate increase; city staff urge residents to report calls to the police

The City of Palo Alto Utilities Department is warning residents about a scam in which customers get a call from someone claiming to have information about changing rates.

According to a warning on the department's website, the scammer is claiming to have vital information about a resident's utility service. The department learned about the scam Monday, after receiving a call from a resident.

Catherine Elvert, Utilities Department spokeswoman, said the customer received what sounded like an automated call informing him that the Utilities Department is preparing to install "monitoring meters" and that this will lead to a 16 percent rate increase. The resident was instructed to press a button if he wished to dispute the raise. He instead called the Utilities Department to report the scam.

Elvert said the Utilities Department is not installing these meters and would not use an automated call to notify residents about rate increases.

"And we'd never tie something like that to a rate increase," Elvert said. "We evaluate our rates every year based on cost of service and adjust rates accordingly."

If any calls from the Utilities Department seem suspect, or the caller asks for money or other personal information, the Palo Alto Utilities Department urges residents to hang up and call the Customer Service Center at 650-329-2161 or the Palo Alto Police Department at 650-329-2413.

Information on consumer protection, telemarketing schemes, credit card fraud and identity theft can be found here.


9 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 21, 2015 at 11:07 am

Come on, Utilities. Solve this Silicon Valley style.

Set up a honeypot phone number that masquerades as a subscriber, which can trace all calls to their origin. When they call, find 'em and bust 'em.

10 people like this
Posted by Eh?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 21, 2015 at 11:34 am

Sooooo...... What's the "scam?" What do they get out of someone pushing a button on their phone?

3 people like this
Posted by cur mudgeon
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jul 21, 2015 at 3:09 pm

We get calls like this all the time. We hang up. All a scam. And yes, we are on the Do Not Call list, but that doesn't stop scammers.

4 people like this
Posted by Eh?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 21, 2015 at 4:52 pm


Scam: (Noun) a confidence game or other fraudulent scheme, especially for making a quick profit; swindle.

How are these phone calls a scam? Obviously they are not from the utilities dept, so they are fraudulent, but what are the "scammers" getting out of making these calls?"

Stunned the article is so lacking in information.

4 people like this
Posted by ChrisC
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 21, 2015 at 9:06 pm

ChrisC is a registered user.

The sad thing is who would disbelieve a 16% increase in our utility bill?

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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