Hawaii utilities warn of holiday scams

Hawaii residents and small businesses are losing thousands of dollars to increasingly aggressive thieves and scam artists posing as utility workers and bill collectors. As part of national Utility Scam Awareness Week, utilities, police and consumer experts are joining forces to prevent customers from being scammed.

The Hawaiian Electric Companies, Hawaiian Telcom, Hawaii Gas and others have partnered with the state Office of Consumer Protection and police to combat scammers who target utility customers.

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Customers need to be alert and recognize scams — especially when criminals threaten to disconnect service unless a payment is made.

Scammers are targeting customers who rely on vital services such as electricity, water, gas and telecommunications. And utilities often see a spike in scams during the holidays.

The utilities offer the following tips:

— If the caller says your utility account is delinquent and threatens to shut off service immediately unless payment is made, it’s a scam.

— If someone calls from a utility demanding immediate payment over the phone, via money transfer, prepaid debit cards or by Bitcoin, it’s a scam.

— If the caller asks to meet the customer in person to pick up a payment, it’s a scam.

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— If you receive an email from your utility urging you to click on an embedded link or attachment to resolve a utility issue or pay a bill, think before you click. It’s likely a scam.

— If a utility worker shows up at your home or place of business, ensure that person is wearing official attire with a logo, driving a properly labeled vehicle and carrying company identification. When in doubt, call the utility’s customer service center.

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