ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) - A phone fraud targeting customers of electric utilities is getting the attention of one of New Mexico's U.S. senators.
PNM, the state's largest electric utility, says it's had a number of customers notify them they've received the calls.
"Sometimes its residential customers, sometimes it's a small business, sometimes a restaurant right before a busy time," said PNM Director of Customer Services Wayne Frye.
Frye said the calls work like this: A person calls claiming to be a PNM employee telling the customer their bill is past due, and if they don't pay now, they will be left in the dark.
"What happens is the caller will tell them to go buy a Visa gift card, for example, maybe at a Walmart or another store, call back and give the numbers on the card," said Frye.
So far PNM knows of 130 customers who have received these calls, but Frye said there could be more out there who are just too embarrassed to come forward.
It is not just PNM customers, though, that need to beware. The callers are hitting up other utility companies, too.
The Jemez Mountain Electric Co-Op has a warning posted on its website about the scam.
The amounts of money these people are after isn't small.
"Sometimes for a small business it's in the realm of hundreds of dollars, even one or two thousand dollars that they've asked for," Frye said.
PNM said unfortunately some of its customers have fallen for it, in part because the caller ID shows that it is PNM calling.
"Callers are able to mimic caller ID," Frye continued. "They have actually used one of PNM's phone numbers in placing these calls."
Now Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., is getting involved.
On Friday afternoon he sent a letter to the chairwoman of the Federal Trade Commission asking her to look into the scheme saying in part that what the culprits are doing violates federal laws.
"It's very encouraging for us because we think that may be what it takes to bring greater awareness to this," Frye said.
PNM said not only would it never ask for a payment via a gift card but that it will not shut off someone's power over the phone. That is something they have to do on site.
For a list of ways to protect yourself, PNM has posted to its website "Beware, Phone Scammers Targeting PNM Customers."
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