South Carolina Electric & Gas urges customers to be mindful of potential phone scams targeting small businesses and residential customers.

Customers have recently reported instances of fake automated voice messages and callers posing as SCE&G employees. The scam artists often demand immediate payment to avoid electric service disconnection and instruct customers to purchase a prepaid debit card or provide credit card information.

“We want to help our customers avoid being victimized by scams. Their best defense is a good understanding of SCE&G’s billing practices,” said Sam Dozier, SCE&G vice president of customer service. “SCE&G may call a customer about an overdue account balance, but we will ask the customer to provide information that only the customer and SCE&G would know, to validate that the call is legitimate. If customers have any doubt about the legitimacy of a call, they should hang up immediately and call our customer service line at 1-800-251-7234.”

Common elements of these scams include:

The scammer often targets small businesses, such as restaurants, hoping to create a higher sense of urgency.

The scammer suggests a specific store from which the customer can purchase a prepaid card. Scammers like prepaid debit cards because they can obtain the money on the card without showing a photo ID.

The scammer uses the practice of caller ID “spoofing,” which causes the customer’s phone to display a false caller ID. Often, the scammer will “spoof” a local number, even using the utility’s customer service number.

The scammer may threaten to turn a customer’s service off if a payment isn’t made immediately.

Bill payments to SCE&G are accepted online at www.sceg.com, in person at authorized payment agencies, by phone through SCE&G’s phone payment provider, BillMatrix, by calling 1-800-450-9160, by mail or at the company’s business offices.

“Scam artists tend to shift their tactics regularly, so we want to urge our customers to be on the alert and learn how to safeguard themselves against these scams,” Dozier said. “If you think you may be a victim of a scam, please notify your local law enforcement agency immediately.”

The South Carolina Department of Consumer Affairs also has a phone line for reporting consumer scams: 800-922-1594 or 803-734-4200.