AUSTIN (KXAN) — If you get a call from a number demanding immediate payment for City of Austin utilities, hang up the phone and call 311 to report it.

In a press release Wednesday, city officials warned customers of fraudulent phone calls and requests to pay utility bills via QR codes. The calls began during Austin’s brief cold snap last week, and in all, the city said 14 customers were cheated out of $13,000 combined.

Since the beginning of the year, the city said utility customers have reported at least 200 fraudulent calls by spoofing legitimate numbers used by the city to contact people. Typically, the numbers show up with the caller ID as “COA” or “Austin City.” The calls start by telling customers their bills are past due and then directing them to pay the bills immediately in a variety of ways.

  • Telling customers that payment systems at local grocery stores haven’t been working and they are now months behind on utility bills.
  • Telling customers that City of Austin payment systems haven’t been working and they are now months behind on utility bills.
  • Directing customers to buy pre-paid credit cards to make immediate payment over the phone.
  • Sending customers a text with a QR code and asking them to go to specific stores to make payment using the code

The city said the calls are being made to both English and Spanish-speaking customers.

Don’t be swindled by the people making the calls. The city said it’ll never ask people to pay with QR codes or call people with residential service cutoff deadlines. The city won’t ask for credit card information or a wire transfer over the phone, either.

If anyone is uncertain about their account status or receives a call they don’t think is legitimate, they can call the city’s customer service center at 512-494-9400, and payments can be made online at COAUtilities.com.