San Marcos scammers: Phony utility collectors want your gift cards

(Jacqueline Ingles/KXAN)

San Marcos police and utility officials say a telephone scam demanding payment by gift card for past-due utility bills targeted two elderly San Marcos residents over the weekend and threatened to turn off their electricity if they didn’t pay.

One 74-year old victim purchased a Money Pack gift card for $205.95 and provided the gift card number to the unidentified caller, believed to be a man. A second target of the scam called police and reported a similar demand, but did not make any payment to the male caller, who claimed to be with San Marcos Electric Utility.

San Marcos police Cmdr. Penny Dunn said other recent cases involve a resident who lost $404.40 in a payment for a non-existent traffic warrant. Another resident reported to police that they were told a family member was in jail in Florida. The victim lost $7,900 by sending money on three separate occasions through MoneyGram, which can be picked up at any of their numerous locations throughout the United States and Mexico.

San Marcos residents who are approached for questionable bill collections should call the police at 512.753.2108, check with Utility Billing at 512.393.8383 or call the appropriate government office.

Calls from City of San Marcos offices would show “City of San Marcos” on caller ID, but utility officials say they don’t personally call to threaten customers with shutting off the lights.

“We do not collect utility bills in this manner,” said Tom Taggart, Executive Director of Public Services. “Nor do we collect bills in person at people’s homes. In fact, our policy prohibits our crews or staff from taking money in the field.”

The Utility Billing office sends out bills each month with the due date 18 days after the billing date, said Utility Billing Manager Ernest Cavazos. An automated courtesy call or email is generated to all accounts with a pending balance two days before the due date.

Accounts that are not paid by their due date will be sent a delinquent notice and a 10% late fee is applied to the account. Utilities could be turned off 10 days after the delinquent notice, he said. Residents who are having trouble paying their bills can work out a payment plan with the City’s Utility Offices, Cavazos said.

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