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NYS warns of scammers pretending to be from utility companies

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Posted at 1:17 PM, Oct 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-26 13:17:33-04

NEW YORK (WKBW) — The New York State Division of Consumer Protection (DCP) and the NYS Department of Public Service have issued a warning to New Yorkers about scammers pretending to be from utility companies.

According to a release, the scammers call and pretend they are from utility companies and tell you they are looking for overdue payments. They then threaten to suspend services unless they receive a payment immediately and also ask for consumer information including utility account numbers, social security numbers and dates of birth.

“Scammers use persuasive tactics to try to get their hands on unsuspecting consumers’ money, before they have time to confirm what scammers are telling them,” said New York State Secretary of State Rossana Rosado. “Like many others, this latest utility scam is prying on vulnerable New Yorkers who believe in the empty threats to shut off their utilities. New York consumers should be aware of some basic tips to keep their hard-earned money safe from scammers.”

Officials say utilities give repeated notices prior to terminations and you can find tips below to avoid falling victim to these scams:

  • Hang up and call the utility company yourself. Call the company using the number on your bill or the utility company’s website even if the person who contacted you left a call-back number. Often, those call-back numbers are fake. If the message came by text, don’t respond. If your bill says you owe anything, pay it as you normally would, not as the caller says.
  • Consumers should never give out 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 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.
  • 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. The utility may call customers to discuss payment plans, but will NOT call the customers to threaten. The utility primarily communicates via letters, bills, emails and authorized texts.
  • 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.