Consumer protection warns consumers of fraudulent calls from electricity companies – Saratogian

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NEW YORK – New York State’s Division of Consumer Protection (DCP) and NYS Department of Public Service alert consumers to phone calls in which scammers posing as power companies , seek late payments and threaten to suspend electricity services unless they receive payment immediately. Payment was requested through untraceable services such as gift cards and money transfer apps including PayPal and Zelle.

“The crooks use persuasion tactics to try to get their hands on money from unsuspecting consumers, before they have time to confirm what the crooks are telling them,” said Secretary of State for New York, Rossana Rosado.

“Like many others, this latest utilities scam targets vulnerable New Yorkers who believe in empty threats to shut down their utilities. New York consumers need to know some basic tips to protect their hard-earned money from scammers, ”Rosado noted.

Civil Service CEO Rory Christian added: “It is simply and plain wrong that scammers are trying to take advantage of consumers, especially in these uncertain times. New York has taken strong action to protect consumers, including a moratorium on closures for customers financially affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. New Yorkers should call or contact their utility directly if there are questions about the state of the consumer’s utility.

The calls reported to DCP come from scammers claiming to be from the New York City Electricity and Gas Utilities. Scammers claim that consumer utilities will be shut down within minutes due to an unpaid account balance, unless the consumer makes an immediate payment. The scammer then requests information about the consumer, including utility account numbers, social security numbers, and dates of birth, and demands payment of any suspected overdue bills. The crooks will demand payment, in the form of fintech, which includes cash apps and bitcoin, to extract thousands of dollars from unsuspecting customers.

Utilities give repeated notices before terminations, including contacting consumers with overdue balances over the phone to offer payment options. However, the utilities do not specify that the payment must be a prepaid card or other non-traceable money transfer. If someone demands payment through an untraceable method, consumers just have to unplug these scams by hanging up the phone and reporting the calls.

To avoid falling victim to these scams, consumers should follow the tips below:

• Hang up and call the power company yourself. Call the company using the number on your bill or on the utility company’s website, even if the person who contacted you left a callback number. Often these callback numbers are wrong. If the message arrived by SMS, do not respond. If your bill says you owe something, pay it as you normally would, and not as the caller says.

• Consumers should never disclose 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 suspect. Consumers should not answer any questions, especially those that can be answered with “Yes” or “No”. Consumers should exercise caution if they are pressured to obtain information immediately.

• Utility companies do not request payments through gift cards or money transfer apps. Gift cards allow fraudsters to get money without leaving a trace. Genuine utility companies issue multiple disconnect warnings before shutting down utilities, and they never ask for money over the phone or specify a method of payment. The utility can call customers to discuss payment plans, but will NOT call customers to threaten them. The public service communicates mainly through letters, invoices, emails and authorized texts.

• Use your phone operator’s call blocking tools and check out the 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 appears on your phone. Callers can “spoof” the number to look like a government agency or local utility company. If someone has contacted a person and they are suspicious, they should hang up and go directly to the official website of the agency or utility company or call the number on their utility bill. to confirm if there is a problem with their account.

• File a complaint with the Consumer Protection Division.

The New York State Division of Consumer Protection investigates do-not-call violations and offers voluntary mediation between a consumer and a business when a consumer has failed to find a solution on their own – same. The consumer helpline 1-800-697-1220 is available Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., excluding holidays, and consumer complaints can be filed at any time at www.dos.ny .gov / consumerprotection.

The Division can also be contacted via Twitter at @NYSConsumer or Facebook at www.facebook.com/nysconsumer.


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