BCEC warns of fraudulent 'utility workers'

CROSS, S.C. (WCIV) -- Watch out for fake workers offering to fix your utility meter. Berkeley Electric Cooperative officials posted the warning to its website and Facebook page, saying customers in the Cross area have had scam artists telling them their meters are damaged.

The scammers say the meter has to be fixed in order to turn the power back on. They then offer to fix it for a fee.

Berkeley Electric Cooperative officials say they haven't spoken with any customers who may have been approached by someone trying to do unnecessary repairs. That's why they want everyone to know what their responsibilities are in case of damage from Mother Nature.

It's an ongoing effort to restore power in Berkeley County.

Crews are cutting trees, climbing ladders, and installing new wires seven days after the winter storm that clobbered the Lowcountry. Communications specialist Micah Ponce explains what Berkeley Electric can fix, and what customers might need to do.

"We have the meter base itself. And then we have the weather head, which is the pipe that goes up to the top of the pole. That's the responsibility of the homeowner," said Ponce.

He says Berkeley Electric and most other power companies are responsible for the lines that go to a house.

"If there is damage to either the meter box or the weather head, the homeowner needs to contact a qualified electrician to have them come out and repair the damage," said Ponce.

Company officials say only employees with proper identification will go to a residence to talk about a power restoration problem. But if no one is home, the homeowner can contact them.

"They can call back to the office and say, 'Hey, I'm out.' We'll notice on our system that it's flagged as a repair is needed by the homeowner. And we'll explain the information about how to get it repaired to them at that time," said Eddie Plowden, marketing manager for Berkeley Electric Cooperative.

Utility officials say the bottom line is to check with them before hiring an electrician or contractor to restore electricity in case of an emergency.{}

Right now, about 300 households are still without power in the St. Stephen and Pineville areas. For safety, Berkeley Electric is asking customers who are still without power to turn off the breakers in their homes if possible.

Berkeley Electric officials said that offer is bogus and under no circumstances will real workers take payments in the field.