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Westmoreland

Police: 'Power shut-off' scammers calling West Penn Power customers in Greensburg, Penn Township

Matthew Santoni
| Friday, Jan. 26, 2018, 1:57 p.m.

Police in Greensburg and Penn Township are warning residents that phone scammers pretending to be from West Penn Power and demanding money to prevent electricity cutoffs have called customers in Westmoreland and Fayette counties.

The posts to each department's Facebook pages indicate the calls were targeting small businesses, telling the recipient their West Penn Power bill is due and their electricity will be cut off within hours unless they provide payment information over the phone immediately.

West Penn Power spokesman Todd Meyers said such calls are so commonplace that they happen every day throughout West Penn and parent company FirstEnergy's coverage area, but there are red flags consumers can catch: West Penn will not cut off a business or home customer's power without an extensive process of written warnings, phone calls and even site visits, so the immediacy of the scammers' demands for payment should be one sign it's a fraud.

"These take weeks and even months, not minutes," Meyers said. "Just about everyone who's in danger of termination, they know that."

Scammers will sometimes tell victims to purchase a prepaid credit card, then give them the number over the phone as "payment," but that is not an accepted form of payment for legitimate West Penn charges, Meyers said.

Customers with questions about whether they owe money should call 800-686-0021; FirstEnergy also has a website listing common scams and giving tips on recognizing and avoiding them.

Matthew Santoni is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-836-6660, msantoni@tribweb.com or via Twitter @msantoni.

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