South Carolina Electric & Gas is urging customers to be aware of the latest phone scams targeting small businesses and residential customers.

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

“Knowing SCE&G billing practices will help customers avoid being victims of scams,” 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, perhaps even using the utility’s standard customer service number.

The scammer may threaten to turn a customer’s service off if the customer doesn’t make a payment immediately.

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

“Scam artists shift their tactics constantly, 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. For more information about how to safeguard against scams, watch http://ow.ly/yuyou. Follow social media channels: Twitter.com/@scegnews, Facebook.com/scegnews, and YouTube.com/scegnews for the latest updates regarding this issue.