O&R Urges: Don't Fall Victim to Predatory Scammers
To help spread that message, O&R is joining this week with more than 100 electric, gas and water providers across the nation in an organization known as Utilities United Against Scams to warn customers about the danger posed by crooks who call customers’ homes or businesses or show up at their door fraudulently demanding the instant payment of their utility bills.
The utilities group has declared this week to be National Scam Awareness Week and Wednesday to be National Scam Awareness Day.
Scam callers posing as O&R representatives are an ongoing, frequent and dangerous problem for the company’s customers. The company receives complaints each week about calls to customers’ homes and businesses from scammers demanding immediate payment and threatening a service shutoff.
Scam callers fraudulently claiming to be from O&R often tell a customer that service is going to be shut off due to unpaid bills unless the customer purchases a pre-paid card or arranges for a transfer via MoneyGram to pay a bill.
These callers are not from O&R and O&R does not accept payments of electric or gas bills by pre-paid debit cards, or by MoneyGram or similar transfers.
The scammers sometimes even tell the customer about a store near the customer's home that sells pre-paid cards. The scammer instructs the customer to pay cash by putting money on the card and to then provide the number on the card to the person who called.
Once the customer provides the scammer with the card number, the scammer steals the money.
With MoneyGram, scammers may ask a customer to provide money from a bank account, credit card or debit card by going online or to a specified location. The money goes into someone else’s bank account or is available for the receiver to pick up in cash.
Be alert if anyone asks you by telephone to arrange for pre-paid debit cards or a MoneyGram transfer as payment for your bill, or to send money to an out-of-state address. Never arrange payment or divulge account or personal information, including debit or credit card information, over the telephone, unless you are certain you are speaking to an O&R representative.
O&R urges customers to never provide a Social Security number, credit card number or banking information to anyone requesting it unless you initiated the contact and know the identity of the person with whom you are speaking.
Anyone who feels they may have been a target of an imposter or a payment scam should report it to their local police department. They may also call O&R at 1-877-434-4100.
O&R’s website, http://www.oru.com offers a variety of approved and convenient options for bill payment.
Another way to guard against scams, is if a stranger comes to your door claiming to be an O&R employee, insist that the worker produce an O&R identification card for your review before transacting any business with him or her, or permitting them into your home.
All O&R employees and contractors are required to carry color photo I.D. cards during their workday. If a person comes to your door claiming to be an O&R employee or contractor, ask to see the I.D. card.
If individuals representing themselves as O&R employees or contractors cannot produce a legitimate photo I.D. card, terminate further contact with them, lock your door and call the police.
When O&R makes a service appointment to visit a customer’s home, O&R will provide the customer with a unique service order number. When the utility worker arrives at a customer’s home, the customer should ask the utility worker for his or her I.D. card and the service order number. The customer should confirm that the service order number matches the one provided, when the appointment was made, before admitting that worker into the home.
If the utility worker fails to provide the number for the appointment, the customer is to break off contact, lock the door and call the police. Customers can also call a dedicated number, (845) 577-3526, to verify an employee’s identity.
For unscheduled utility work at customers’ homes, such as meter reading or emergency repairs, customers are urged to ask to see the utility worker’s company identification card before admitting them to the customer’s home or transacting any business with them. To verify an O&R employee’s identity, you can call O&R Customer Service at 1-877-434-4100.