There has been an uptick in reported attempts at utility scams, according to Central Hudson Gas & Electric.
Central Hudson customers have been reporting more scams, prompting officials to release an alert to consumers, complete with tips on how to avoid becoming the latest victim of opportunistic fraudsters.
"Our customers are learning to recognize signs of a potential scam, as evidenced by the increase in reported attempts," Charles Freni, Central Hudson President and C.E.O. said in a statement. “However, we encourage all our customers to remain alert for callers who attempt to collect unauthorized payments for utility bills.”
Freni noted 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. The most recent incidents used by scammers have been contacts by telephone."
Signs of a potential scam include fraudsters aggressively telling a customer that the utility bill is past service and will be quickly disconnected and requests for immediate payment - sometimes with a prepaid card from a retail store.
“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,” Central Hudson officials noted. “ 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.”
Among the tips provided by Central Hudson to help consumers avoid becoming the latest victim of a scam include:
- 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, U.S. 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 feels 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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