ABILENE, Texas — AEP Texas issued a press release Friday saying it has received reports of scam attempts earlier this week within the Abilene area. The release said the scam calls have spread to the Corpus Christi area over the past few days, as well.

Similar attempts in other parts of the AEP service territory are anticipated, so the energy company is warning customers to be very cautious if they receive calls from anyone identifying themselves as an AEP Texas employee and asking for payment to avoid disconnection of service.

“Scammers are targeting local businesses, senior citizens and customers and asking for an immediate payment or their power will be disconnected.” Joel Murphy, AEP Texas director of customer services and marketing, said. “In some cases, they may even leave a call back number. If called, the response is a very close impersonation of the AEP Customer Operations Center calls.

“While we cannot speak for the Retail Electric Providers, AEP Texas employees will never proactively contact a customer demanding an immediate payment, insist a payment be made with a prepaid credit card or ask a customer to meet us in a parking lot to make a payment,” Murphy said.

Thieves calling consumers within the AEP Texas service territory are doing the following:

•Threatening to shut off power unless an immediate payment is made (Note: As an energy delivery company, AEP Texas does not bill the end-use customer. AEP Texas disconnects customers for non-payment as instructed by the Retail Electric Provider);

•Telling customers they need a new electric meter, but must make a payment before the new meter is installed;

•Demanding a deposit is paid immediately;

•Offering a discount on their utility bill if they sign up for auto-pay (Note: Again, as a distribution and transmission, or “wires” company, AEP Texas does not bill the end-use customer.)

More red flags for scam activity include:

•The thief instructs the customer to purchase a pre-paid debit or credit card – widely available at retail stores – then call him or her back to supposedly make a payment to AEP Texas;

•The scammer asks the customer for the prepaid card’s receipt number and PIN number, which grants instant access to the card’s funds;

•The scammers are calling from numbers that names AEP Texas on the Caller ID. And they have a telephone recording that sounds like an AEP Texas phone system message.

How to protect yourself:

•Call your Retail Electric Provider to verify your account balance and date your payment is due. The correct phone number is shown on your monthly electricity bill;

•The Retail Electric Provider--not AEP Texas--will notify customers by mail that their account is past due and their electric service will be disconnected – never a single notification one hour before disconnection;

•If you suspect someone is trying to scam you, hang up and call the local police and then AEP Texas. Never dial the phone number the scammers provide.

Customers, who suspect or experience fraud or feel threatened during contact with one of these thieves, should contact local authorities, and then AEP Texas at 877-373-4858.

AEP Texas continues to educate customers about scams through messages on their electric bills, on AEPTexas.com through social media and public service announcements. AEP Texas also is working with local, state and federal law enforcement agencies to identify and prosecute scammers.

For more information visit aeptexas.com/StopScams or follow AEP Texas on Twitter, and Facebook to learn more.