ROSEMEAD ( — A warning went out Thursday to Southern California Edison customers about a phone scam trying to collect on supposedly past-due bills.

Callers posing as SCE representatives have been calling and telling customers they must pay past due bill immediately or have their electric service disconnected, according to the utility.

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Payment is demanded in the form of a prepaid cash card. Customers have also been asked to buy prepaid debit cards and give the card’s number away so the caller can collect the value deposited on the card.

SCE customers have reported 800 instances of phone scams this year, with 150 residential and commercial customers falling victim to the scam, the utility reported. Customers who have fallen prey have lost an average of $800 to $1,000.

“We ask our customers to be alert to these calls that demand immediate payment and threaten service disconnection,” said Marlyn Denter, SCE’s manager of consumer affairs.

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SCE says that customers who suspect a scam ask for the caller’s name, department and business phone number. If the caller refuses, customers should hang up and report what happened to police or SCE by calling (800) 655-4555.

Tips to avoid scams include:

— Never reveal credit card, ATM or calling card numbers (or PIN numbers) to anyone.
— If someone calls and asks you to leave your home at a specific time for a utility-related cause, call the police. It could be a burglary attempt set up by the caller.
— Be suspicious of anyone who arrives at your house without an appointment, asking to check an appliance, wiring or suggesting that there is an electrical problem inside or outside your residence.

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