The New York State Department of State's Division of Consumer Protection is alerting consumers to be aware of Identity thieves using people's personal information to commit utility fraud.
This type of fraud involves identity thieves opening an account for cable, electricity, water or gas using someone else's personal information such as name, phone number, and a service address. Utilities fraud can take a long time to discover and is difficult to track. The victim may not know that a fraudulent account has been opened with their information until they are contacted by a collection agency. By that time, the criminal has moved on.
Help protect yourself against utility fraud by taking the following precautions:
• Check your accounts and credit reports frequently for any suspicious activity.
• Always shred bills and documents that contain personal information before you dispose of them.
• Avoid giving out personal information over the phone or online to someone you do not know or trust. Do not be afraid to ask questions when personal information is requested such as "why is this information needed" and "how will this information be stored."
• Contact your utility companies and be familiar with their policies regarding information required to open new accounts.
For more information regarding identity theft prevention and mitigation, please contact the New York Department of State, Division of Consumer Protection at (518)-474-8583.