NYS warns of callers claiming to be from utility companies

ALBANY, NY (NEWS10) – New York State’s Consumer Protection Division (DCP) and NYS Department of Public Service are alerting residents to fake phone calls from scammers posing as public services. DCP said the callers claimed to be from power companies.

Scammers look for late payments and threaten to suspend electricity services unless they receive payment immediately. DCP said the caller was also asking for consumer information, including utility account numbers, social security numbers and dates of birth.

Utilities give repeated notices before terminations, including contacting consumers with overdue balances over the phone to offer payment options. However, DCP said the utilities do not specify that the payment must be a prepaid card or other non-traceable money transfer. Payment by callers has been requested with gift cards and money transfer apps, including PayPal and Zelle.

“The crooks use persuasion tactics to try and get their hands on money from unsuspecting consumers, before they have time to confirm what the crooks are telling them,” said Secretary of State for New York State, Rossana Rosado. “Like many others, this latest utilities scam targets vulnerable New Yorkers who believe in empty threats to shut down their utilities.”

To avoid falling victim to these scams, DCP recommends:

  • Hang up and call the utility company yourself. Call the company using the number on your bill or on the utility company’s website, even if the person who contacted you left a callback number.
  • Consumers should never disclose personal information such as account numbers, social security numbers, date of birth, mother’s maiden names, passwords or other identifying information in response to unexpected calls or s ‘they are suspect.
  • Utility companies don’t ask for payments through gift cards or money transfer apps. Gift cards allow fraudsters to get money without leaving a trace. Genuine utility companies issue multiple disconnect warnings before shutting down utilities, and they never ask for money over the phone or specify a method of payment.
  • Use your phone carrier’s call blocking tools and check out the apps that block calls. The FCC allows phone companies to block robocalls by default based on reasonable analytics.
  • Don’t trust the number that appears on your phone. Callers can “spoof” the number to look like a government agency or local utility company.
  • File a complaint with the Consumer Protection Division.

Further information is available on the website of the Consumer Protection Division.

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