Don’t get scammed this holiday season

Hawaiian Electric
3 min readDec 12, 2023

by Shannon Tangonan | Dec. 12, 2023

If only the holiday season just brought tidings of comfort and joy. But Jensen Okagawa, a Hawaiian Electric security supervisor, knows better. It also brings scams — sometimes lots of them.

Utility scams are more prevalent around the holidays. It’s why national Utility Scam Awareness Day is recognized in mid-November — when scammers tend to ramp up their activity.

This time of year is when our customers are most vulnerable. There are countless distractions, from fretting over gift lists to hosting parties. And that’s when scammers strike.

“Who wants to lose their electricity over the holidays? No one. So scammers use the threat of disconnection to scare our customers into paying them,” Okagawa said. “We just want folks to be vigilant and take a step back before you pay.”

Customers can access their accounts online, review paper bills or call customer service to double check whether their account is past due.

“If you get a call, text, email or letter demanding immediate payment by Bitcoin, gift cards, money transfer or prepaid debit cards, it’s a scam,” Okagawa said. Each year, our company receives hundreds of reports of fraud. While fewer customers are paying money to scammers, thousands of dollars are still being lost.

In late October, a scammer mimicked our customer service caller ID and contacted an Oahu business. The caller told the customer his account was ‘past due,’ and service would be disconnected within two hours unless he paid $1,400 in Bitcoin.

The caller directed the customer to a nearby gas station and gave him step-by-step instructions to ʻpay his bill’ by depositing cash into a Bitcoin machine. The customer fed $500 into the machine and told the caller that was all he had. When the same man called back a half hour later demanding more money, the customer gave us a call.

We offer the following tips:

  • If a caller says your account is delinquent and threatens to shut off service immediately unless payment is made, it’s a scam. Don’t be fooled by the caller ID, which can be manipulated to show a legitimate phone number.
  • If someone from ‘Hawaiian Electric’ contacts you and demands immediate payment by methods not listed at hawaiianelectric.com/paymentoptions, it’s a scam.
  • If the caller asks to meet you in person to pick up a payment, it’s a scam.
  • If you receive an email urging you to click on an embedded link or attachment to pay a bill, think before you click. It’s likely a scam.
  • If someone shows up at your home or place of business claiming to be from Hawaiian Electric, ensure that person is wearing official attire with a logo, driving a properly labeled vehicle and carrying company identification. When in doubt, call customer service.

For more information, visit hawaiianelectric.com/stopscams. To report suspicious activity, go to hawaiianelectric.com/reportfraud.

Shannon Tangonan is a senior communications specialist at Hawaiian Electric.

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Hawaiian Electric

Established in 1891, Hawaiian Electric is committed to empowering its customers and communities by providing affordable, reliable, clean and sustainable energy.