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Beware of new scam targeting Western New York

Posted at 12:37 PM, Oct 13, 2016
and last updated 2016-10-13 18:59:31-04

The Erie County Sheriff's Office and National Grid are warning people about a new, sophisticated scam going around.  This one is targeting businesses.  National Grid says a victim in the Syracuse area has already lost $10,000 because of the scam.

The scam starts with a caller contacting a business claiming to be from National Grid and saying a crew is heading out to shut off utilities for lack of payment.  The caller then instructs the victim to call a 1- 800 number to make payment arrangements through an automated system.

What makes this confusing for customers is that National Grid does call customers when there is a past due amount.

So how can you tell a scammer from a legitimate National Grid call?

We talked with company Spokesperson Steve Brady to get some advice. Brady said the biggest clue is if the caller does not know your account number.  Another warning sign, hearing that payment can be made by purchasing pre-paid money or visa cards.

"If you are completely unsure, just hang up and call National Grid," said Brady.

This scam is just the latest to hit the Buffalo-Niagara region.  Already this year, many people have gotten an "IRS" scam call with someone claiming that a tax bill is due and immediate payment is needed.  The IRS reminds people that it does not contact people by phone for tax payments, only by mail.

Some viewers are also telling us that they are getting calls from someone demanding payment because the victim is under criminal investigation.  The scammer warns that someone is on the way to make an arrest if payment isn't immediately made.

Of course, scammers have not forgotten about the personal computer with the FBI reporting an increase in ransomware, business email compromise and intellectual property theft - which all fall under the heading of Cyber-Crimes.

7 Eyewitness News reporter Ed Reilly takes a look at the electricity scam and talks with Jason Fickett, from the FBI Buffalo Cyber Crime Task Force, about steps people can take to report cyber-crime and scams through a special FBI website https://www.ic3.gov