Utility companies warn customers about these 5 new scammer tactics
Utility companies, like PSEG Long Island, are warning customers about new scammer tactics.
While the standard tactic of requesting the customer purchase a prepaid debit card to provide payment is still in use, some scammers have moved on to demanding payment via Zelle, one of several online fund transfer platforms.
Take a look at the signs of potential scam activity below and protect yourself:
1. Threat to disconnect
Scammers may aggressively tell the customer their utility bill is past due and service will be disconnected if a payment is not made – usually within an hour.
2. Request for immediate payment
Scammers may instruct the customer to purchase a prepaid card, a gift card or even Bitcoin, and then to call them back, supposedly to make a phone payment to the utility company. They may request that the customer use Zelle to make an online payment, or even give instructions for an in-person meeting, supposedly at a utility customer center. Many times after the customer makes the first payment, the scammer will call back to ask for the payment to be resubmitted due to an error with the amount. The scammer refers to a new amount and claims that the original payment will be refunded. Sometimes they will call a third time to say the payment did not go through and to resubmit again.
3. In person-demands
Scammers may arrive at a home or business, flash a fake ID and/or claim to be a utility collection representative. The impostors may wear “uniforms” or affix false company signs to their vehicles. The scammers generally ask for personal information, which real utility representatives do not do, or offer bogus discounts.
4. Request for card information
If a customer calls back with requested information, the caller asks the customer for the prepaid card's number or gift-card PIN, which grants the scammer instant access to the card's funds, and the victim's money is gone.
5. Priority meter installs
Recent phone scams reported to PSEG Long Island include demands for payment for past-due bills or requiring a deposit for a priority meter installation. PSEG Long Island does not require a deposit for meter installations. Often scammers will threaten to disconnect electric service if payment is not made immediately. These scammers often demand payment through a pre-paid card or Bitcoin. If the victim takes the bait, the scammer provides a telephone number where a fake representative requests additional information that completes the fraudulent transaction.