For many business organizations, the internet represents an online sea of opportunity. At no other time in history did companies have so rich a potential target pool. Unfortunately, those seas can also be filled with both sharks and rocks. Online reputation management is one response to the increasingly perilous world of scams and negative online reviews.
The many scams targeting customers of Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) are unfortunate examples of this problem. Holden Watne from Gen IX, a Culver City IT company shares some advice.
Understanding The PG&E Scams
PG&E is a multi-billion-dollar energy company with its headquarters in San Francisco. They specialize in providing electricity and natural gas to a large portion of homes and businesses on the west coast of the USA. They are investor-owned and publicly traded, and regulated by the California Public Utilities Commission. Like so many organizations with multiple stakeholders, they have a vested interest in maintaining a positive public image. With such a high profile impact on the lives of everyday consumers, it is no wonder they have been targeted by a number of illegal scams.
Examples Of The Telephone Scams
The PG&E website lists a few examples of the kinds of scams that were attempted over the years, with many currently in use. Examples include:
Threatening customers with immediate shutoffs due to unpaid balances.
Attempting to sell products or services on behalf of PG&E. These can also include in-person visits by criminals attempting home entry.
Requesting personal information about an account in order to verify a potential shutoff.
The object of most of the scams is to obtain financial information from the customer. PG&E has confirmed on their website that they do not request financial information of this nature through unsolicited phone calls, so any such requests should be deemed fraudulent.
Phishing is the practice of using email designed to falsely represent a company in order to collect financial information from unsuspecting consumers. Phishing scams using the PG&E name generally come in the form of emailed bills. Consumers should be especially careful before releasing any information to an unsolicited email containing suspicious addresses or nonspecific account information.
How Consumers Can Protect Themselves
Customers can protect themselves against these scams by being vigilant about giving any financial information over the phone to unsolicited callers. PG&E has confirmed that they do not solicit personal information from customers in unsolicited calls or any emails. Visits to homes are always preceded with a phone call from PG&E, and representatives always share identification. They request customers to call 1-833-500-SCAM or visit Verify PG&E Contact with any suspicious contacts.
How To Protect Your Company
Maintaining your organization’s online reputation demands that you immediately respond to any potential allegations of scams or phishing using your name or logo. Make sure to train any customer-focused staff to recognize such complaints, and create an effective reporting process. Finally, it might not be a bad idea to place language on your website urging customers to contact you with any suspicious interactions by people claiming to represent your enterprise. No one can protect your online reputation better than you.
Author’s Bio: Stuart Crawford is the managing partner for Ulistic LP. Ulistic LP is a 10+ year old business development and marketing agency for managed IT service providers in Canada, Australia and the United States.