Don't Be a Victim: Awareness Is Best Defense Against Scammers

The thieves trying to steal O&R customers’ hard-earned money through scams have shown this year that --- as professional crooks --- they are as relentless and ruthless as ever.

O&R is joining Con Edison and more than 100 electric, natural gas and water providers from across North America in dedicating next week to educating customers on how they can avoid becoming victims. The companies, members of Utilities United Against Scams, have declared Nov. 11 to Nov. 17 to be National Utility Scam Awareness Week and next Wednesday to be National Utility Scam Awareness Day.


Unfortunately, there are nearly as many different scams as there are different criminals.


One of the common ways professional criminals attempt to steal customers’ money is to call a customer’s home or business and say the customer owes money and must pay immediately by pre-paid card or face a shutoff of service.


The callers sometimes point the customer to a store that sells pre-paid cards. The crooks can even make an O&R telephone number show up on the customer's caller ID.


Once the customer puts money on a pre-paid card and provides the crook with the card number, the crook steals the money.


O&R does not accept payment by pre-paid debit cards, by MoneyGram or similar transfers. So, if an imposter demands payment by those methods, you know it’s a crook. 


With MoneyGram, thieves may trick a customer into providing money from a bank account, credit card or debit card by going online or to a specified location. The money goes into the thief’s bank account or is available for the thief to pick up in cash.


Never arrange payment or divulge account or personal information, including debit or credit card information, over the phone unless you are certain you are speaking to O&R. If you are unsure call 1-877-434-4100 to check.


Other impostors show up at customers’ homes and businesses claiming to be from O&R. These crooks try to get money by saying the customer is delinquent on bills or try to get inside the home by saying they need to perform work.


Once inside a home, these impostors look for money or property to steal or, in some cases, commit assaults.


If someone comes to your home or business claiming to be from O&R, ask for identification. If you are still unsure, call 1-877-434-4100 or 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 to the customer 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.

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