Arizonans warned about scammers seeking gift cards as utility payments

Aug 2, 2021, 11:32 AM
(Arizona Attorney General's Office)...
(Arizona Attorney General's Office)
(Arizona Attorney General's Office)

PHOENIX – Authorities are warning Arizonans about fraudsters claiming to be from utility companies and demanding payment in gift cards.

“If someone calls demanding payment with a gift card, hang up immediately,” Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich said Monday in a press release.

Brnovich, the Arizona Food Marketing Alliance and five utility companies — Salt River Project, Southwest Gas, Arizona Public Service, Tucson Electric Power and UniSource Energy Services – are partnering on a campaign to combat the scheme.

Hundreds of customers call Arizona utility companies every week to complain about being pressured to buy gift cards to make payments under the threat of having their services cut off, according to the release. The ominous messages could come by phone call, in an email, by text or in person.

To help raise awareness, about 1,200 grocery and convenience stores are putting up signs in English and Spanish to warn about the scam.

The signs remind customers that no government agency or utility company will ever request payment in gift cards, prepaid cards or cryptocurrency.

Anybody targeted by a gift card scam can report the incident to the Arizona Attorney General’s Office online or at 602-542-5763.

This is the AGO’s third campaign with retailers to combat similar consumer scams in the past year, and the first involving utility companies.

“The Arizona Food Marketing Alliance should be applauded for originally starting this program, so we had a good structure to build on,” Sharon Kausal, SRP strategic energy manager, said in the release.

In November 2020, CVS stores put up signs warning about government imposters. In February, nearly 1,000 Arizona grocery and convenience stores posted signs warning that government agencies don’t take gift cards for payments.

“Through our training and caring retail partners we have made a difference in reducing the fraud,” AFMA President Mark Miller said in the release.

“But the fraud continues as the criminals continue to look for new ways to deceive our Arizona customers.”

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Arizonans warned about scammers seeking gift cards as utility payments