Hawaiian Electric is warning of holiday season scams that may try to use fear of service disconnection to steal money from customers.

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Utility scams tend to increase over the busy holidays and in the aftermath of disasters, the company said in a news release on Wednesday, which marked Utility Scam Awareness Day.

Hawaiian Electric reminded customers that it does not accept payment via cryptocurrency, prepaid debit cards, gift cards or money transfer. In some recent cases, customers were told they would have their electric service shut off immediately unless they went to a bitcoin kiosk to make a payment.

Last month, a scammer mimicked Hawaiian Electric’s customer service caller ID and contacted an Oahu business. The caller told the customer his account was “past due,” and that the 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 “pay 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 contacted Hawaiian Electric.

“No one wants to be without electricity, especially over the holidays, and scammers use the threat of disconnection to strike fear in our customers,” said Brendan Bailey, Hawaiian Electric vice president of customer service. “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.”

Maui customers who are unable to pay their bills also do not need to worry about their service getting cut off; Hawaiian Electric is pausing disconnections for all Maui customers through at least Jan. 5, by order of the state Public Utilities Commission following the Aug. 8 wildfires.

The company offered tips to help customers spot scams, including:

• 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.

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