Niagara County Sheriff's Office warns of energy bill phone scam

Posted at 4:56 AM, Dec 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-28 04:56:10-05

NIAGARA COUNTY, N.Y. (WKBW) — The Niagara County Sheriff's Office is warning residents to be on alert of a new phone scam that is making the rounds.

Investigators say a Niagara County resident reported receiving a phone call from someone claiming to be their energy provider who said that the bill was past due and they were about to shut off their utilities.

The caller asked the victim to make a payment over the phone through a third-party app to a specific person because businesses weren't allowed to have the app so employees could make the payments for them.

According to the sheriff's office, the caller told the victim their payment didn't go through and asked them to try again a few times. The victim became suspicious and asked to a supervisor, causing the caller to hang up.

The victim called their bank, which told them hundreds of dollars had been debited from their account and they weren't sure it would be able to be reimbursed because it was through a third-party app.

The sheriff's office says there were two major red flags in this incident to watch out for:

  • Red Flag #1: Companies will not call customers individually to tell them their bill is past due and will only send letters or automated recordings.
  • Red Flag #2: Companies will not ask you to pay through a third-party app.

Tips to avoid falling victim to a scam like this:

  • Block unwanted calls and texts, especially from numbers you do not know.
  • Do not give away personal or financial information in response to requests you didn't expect.
  • Do not click on links in an email or text from companies you may do business with; contact them yourself to verify it is legitimate.
  • Resist the pressure to act immediately.