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For Immediate Release:
September 3, 2020
Contact:
518-486-9844
press@dos.ny.gov
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NYS DIVISION OF CONSUMER PROTECTION AND DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SERVICE REMIND CONSUMERS TO BE ALERT OF PHONE SCAMMERS SPOOFING UTILITY COMPANIES
Phone Scammers Claim Payment is Needed to Try to Steal Personal Information

Consumers Should be Alert and Follow Basic Tips to Keep Information Protected

The New York State Division of Consumer Protection (DCP) and the Department of Public Service are alerting consumers of a phone scam in which scammers, pretending to be from a utility company, call individuals and threaten to suspend electricity services unless they receive a payment immediately. Payment has been requested by means of untraceable services such as gift cards, including Green Dot cards and money transfer apps, including Cash App.

Pursuant to Governor Cuomo’s March 13th directive, the Department of Public Service worked with the State’s utility companies to ensure no New Yorkers would have their utilities cutoff for nonpayment during the PAUSE.  Similar action was taken during Super Storm Sandy, the 2014 Polar Vortex, and the 2008 financial crisis.

“Scammers are unscrupulous and will stop at nothing to get their hands on New Yorkers’ hard earned money. These latest scams are targeting vulnerable New Yorkers by scaring them with empty threats to shut off their utilities,” said New York State Secretary of State Rossana Rosado. “New Yorkers should be aware of these scammers and follow basic safety tips to avoid falling victim.”

Department of Public Service CEO John B. Rhodes said, “It is flat-out wrong that scammers try to take advantage of consumers, especially during these uncertain times. Governor Cuomo has taken strong action to protect consumers, including a moratorium on shut-offs, and New Yorkers should call their utility to ensure their rights.”

In addition, calls have also been reported to be coming from scammers purporting to be from New York electric and gas utilities. The callers ask for consumer information, including utility account numbers, social security numbers, and dates of birth, and request payment for alleged past-due bills. Scammers will demand payment, make threats to turn off power, and try to rush customers into making an immediate payment. Similar to a Social Security scam detailed in June of 2019, in these cases the caller “spoofs” official phone numbers of state agencies or utility companies call individuals seeking information that could be used to steal identities. Spoofing is when a caller deliberately falsifies the information transmitted to a caller ID display to disguise their identity, according to the Federal Communications Commission. In actuality, the call could be coming from anywhere in the world.

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

If a consumer receives this or any other scam calls, they are encouraged to file a complaint with the Division of Consumer Protection.
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 8:30am to 4:30pm, excluding State Holidays, and consumer complaints can be filed at any time at www.dos.ny.gov/consumerprotection. The Division can also be reached via Twitter at @NYSConsumer or Facebook at www.facebook.com/nysconsumer.

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