The New York State Division of Consumer Protection (DCP) and the NYS Department of Public Service is alerting consumers of phone calls in which scammers, pretending to be from electric companies are looking for overdue payments and threatening to suspend electricity services unless they receive a payment immediately.
NEW YORK STATE — The New York State Division of Consumer Protection (DCP) and the NYS Department of Public Service is alerting consumers of phone calls in which scammers, pretending to be from electric companies are looking for overdue payments and threatening to suspend electricity services unless they receive a payment immediately. Payment has been requested by means of untraceable services such as 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. New York consumers should be aware of some basic tips to keep their hard-earned money safe from scammers.”
Department of Public Service CEO Rory Christian said, “It is simply and plainly wrong that scammers try to take advantage of consumers, especially during these uncertain times. New York has taken strong action to protect consumers, including a moratorium on shutoffs for customers financially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. New Yorkers should call or contact their utility directly if there is any question about the status of the consumer’s utility service.”
The calls reported to DCP are coming from scammers purporting to be from New York electric and gas utilities. The scammers claim that the consumers’ utilities will be shut off in minutes due to an outstanding account balance unless the consumer makes immediate payment. The scammer then asks for consumer information, including utility account numbers, social security numbers, and dates of birth, and demands payment for alleged past-due bills. Scammers will demand payment, in form of financial technologies, which includes cash apps and bitcoin, to bilk thousands of dollars from unsuspecting customers.
Utilities give repeated notices prior to terminations including reaching out to consumers with past due balances by phone to offer payment options. However, utilities do not specify that the payment must be a prepaid card or other non-traceable money transfer. If someone demands payment via non-traceable method, consumers just need to pull the plug on these scams by hanging up the phone and reporting the calls.
To avoid falling victim to these scams, consumers should follow the tips below:
The New York State Division of Consumer Protection investigates Do Not Call violations and provides voluntary mediation between a consumer and a business when a consumer has been unsuccessful at reaching a resolution on their own. The Consumer Assistance Helpline 1-800-697-1220 is available Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., excluding state holidays, and consumer complaints can be filed at any time at www.dos.ny.gov/
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