ALBANY, N.Y (NEWS10) — The New York State Division of Consumer Protection (DCP) and the NYS Department of Public Service is alerting residents of false phone calls from scammers pretending to be utility companies. DCP said the callers are pretending to be from electric companies.
The scammers are looking for overdue payments and threatening to suspend electricity services unless they receive a payment immediately. DCP said the caller also asks for consumer information, including utility account numbers, social security numbers, and dates of birth.
Utilities give repeated notices prior to terminations including reaching out to consumers with past due balances by phone to offer payment options. However, DCP said utilities do not specify that the payment must be a prepaid card or other non-traceable money transfer. Payment by the callers has been requested with gift cards and money transfer apps, including PayPal and Zelle.
“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.”
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 the utility company’s website even if the person who contacted you left a call-back number.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- File a complaint with the Division of Consumer Protection.
More information can be found on the Division of Consumer Protection website.