MAYNARDVILLE (WATE) - A new phishing scam is making the rounds throughout East Tennessee. This one has its origins in California and just one computer mouse click could get you in trouble and lead to your identity being stolen.
PG&E is a big gas and electric company in the San Francisco area of California. Some scammers who are out fishing for some easy prey are sending what looks like a real bill, hoping to lure you in, if you take the bait.
Maynardville resident Tim York taps on his desktop computer about every day to update his Facebook page.
The retired maintenance worker considers himself pretty savvy when it comes to being fooled, but an email sent earlier this month claiming he's way behind on an electric bill did catch his attention.
"After additional charges they wanted me to send $559.70 to them," said York. "For a brief second I thought is this a legitimate company in Knoxville? Well, I never heard of it. Then I read $559. I said to my wife, 'I don't owe anybody this kind of money.'"
In Sevierville, Connie Laclair received a similar email claiming to be from PG&E.
"They told me that I have a bill and owe $500 for gas and electric," she said.
Like Tim York, Laclair took no action on the bill. Instead she erased the fake message.
"My thought is I knew enough to delete it right away without opening it. But other seniors don't always know that," Laclair said.
Back in Maynardville, Tim York checked up on PG&E.
"I found out it was all the way out in California. I figured it was probably a scam then. So I decided to call [6 On Your Side], to let you know, so you could warn others," said York.
In their fake message, the scammers hope you take the bait and click on their fake account.
If York had opened the attachment. it would have led him to a compromised website that hides malware that opens access to your personal information.
York says he has been scammed before.
"I was a victim of that FBI scam not long ago. And it froze up my computer. It cost me $50 to get it right again," he said.
PG&E advises anyone who receives this email not to respond to the request, not to click any link to a website and not to open any attachments. PG&E says to simply delete the message.
"I'm just thankful that I was wise enough from the first time I was a victim to double check everything out," said York.
Several other utility companies around the country have reported cyber crimes of a similar nature.
There's a utility out of Texas, one in Oregon and a third one in New England, all reporting recent malware attacks claiming that the homeowner's bill is overdue.
If a message like this comes to you, just delete it. Don't click on a site you're unfamiliar with.
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