New York State warns consumers of phone scams threatening to disconnect utilities

Posted at 4:43 PM, May 13, 2020

NEW YORK (WKBW) — The New York State Division of Consumer Protection (DCP) and the Department of Public Service have issued a warning to consumers alerting them of a phone scam in which scammers are threatening to suspend services unless past due payments are made.

The state says the scammers are requesting payments be made through untraceable services such as money transferring apps like Cash App.

Officials say the scammers may also attempt to steal your personal information by "spoofing" the phone call.

As part of a directive issued by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo in March, no New Yorkers can have their utilities cutoff for nonpayment during the PAUSE.

“Unfortunately, these types of scams appear from time to time targeting unsuspecting New Yorkers with nefarious tactics, including spoofing official government agencies and utility companies,” said New York State Secretary of State Rossana Rosado. “Be alert and follow some safety tips when you are called or approached by scammers in order to avoid falling victims of tricks to get your hard-earned money.”

Other calls are being received by consumers which the scammers claim they are from New York electric and gas companies.

NYSEG and National Grid have issued a warning to customers warning of this scam.

The state has issued the following tips to avoid falling victim to these scams:

  • Consumers should never give out personal information such as account numbers, Social Security numbers, mother's maiden names, passwords or other identifying information in response to unexpected calls or if they are at all suspicious. Consumers should not respond to any questions, especially those that can be answered with "Yes" or "No." Consumers should exercise caution if they are being pressured for information immediately.
  • Government agencies and utility companies do not ask for payments via gift cards or cash transfer apps. Gift cards allow scammers to get money without a trace. Real utility companies issue several disconnection warnings before shutting off utilities and they never demand money over the phone or specify a method of payment.
  • Use call blocking tools from your phone provider and check into apps that block calls. The FCC allows phone companies to block robocalls by default based on reasonable analytics (see fcc.gov/robocalls).
  • Do not rely on the number that comes up on your phone. Callers can “spoof” the number to look like a government agency or local utility company. If someone has contacted an individual and they are suspicious, they should hang up and go directly to the official website for the agency or utility company or call the number on their utility bill to confirm whether there is a problem with their account.