With temperatures continuing to rise and more and more air conditioners getting turned up, a new scam involving utility companies is making the rounds in the area.
The Central Hudson Gas and Electric Corporation is warning area residents and their customers to be aware of utility bill payment scams that “continue to take place int eh region and have become more prevalent.”
The most recent incidents used by scammers have been contacts by telephone, with the caller ID 800-852-6655; however, other phone numbers may also be used.
“We want our customers to know how to recognize signs of a potential scam and to avoid becoming victimized,” Senior Vice President of Customer Services and Transmission & Distribution Operations Charles Freni noted, adding that “scammers often pose as utility company employees, and threaten to disconnect customers' utility services if they fail to make an immediate payment – typically using a prepaid card or other non-traceable forms of payment.”
Freni said that signs of a potential scam include:
- A threat to disconnect : Scammers may aggressively tell the customer his or her utility bill is past due and service will be disconnected if a payment is not made – usually within an hour;
- Request for immediate payment : Scammers may instruct the customer to purchase a prepaid card – widely available at retail stores – then call them back supposedly to make a bill payment;
- Request for prepaid card: When the customer calls back, the caller asks the customer for the prepaid card's number, which grants the scammer instant access to the card's funds, and the victim's money is gone.
According to officials, customers can protect themselves by:
- Never purchasing a prepaid card to avoid service disconnection or shutoff. "Central Hudson does not specify how customers should make a bill payment and offers a variety of payment methods, including online, by phone, automatic bank draft, mail or in person;"
- Hanging up the phone, deleting the email or shutting the door when threatened with immediate disconnection or shutoff of service. "Central Hudson follows state regulations by issuing advance notifications, and never a single call one hour or less before taking action;"
- Calling Central Hudson for verification using the number on their bill, (845) 452-2700, and not the phone number the scammer provides. If customers ever feel that they are in physical danger, they should call 911.
"Central Hudson employees and authorized contractors drive marked vehicles and carry photo identification, and will always display it upon request," Freni added. "If there is ever any doubt, customers may call Central Hudson for confirmation." He added that customers may also wish to note caller ID information, license plates or email addresses and report the incident to their local police department.
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