Scammers Are Trying New Tricks; O&R Urges Customers to Be Aware

Companies Use ‘Utility Scam Awareness Week’ to Inform, Educate and Protect

Say this for the crooks looking to scam O&R customers: They’re always thinking.

 

Customers have complained this year about scammers using new tactics. It demonstrates that scammers have time on their hands, imagination and a strong profit motive.

One new approach is for a scammer to contact a customer and urge the customer to pay a delinquent bill and qualify for a gift card. The scammer – who may even make an O&R phone number show up on the customer’s caller ID screen – instructs the customer to buy a pre-paid card and load money onto it to pay the bill.

Once the customer puts money on the pre-paid card and provides the scammer with the card number, the scammer steals the money. The customer, of course, does not get a gift card and is still responsible for the bill.

This is a variation of a scam that has been common for years. In that one, the scammer calls and says the customer’s bill is delinquent, but instead of offering a gift card, the scammer makes a threat. The scammer tells the customer O&R will shut off service unless the customer immediately buys a pre-paid card and pays the bill.

These callers sometimes point the customer to a store that sells pre-paid cards. The scammers target residential and business customers in all parts of O&R’s and Rockland Electric Company’s service area.

O&R does not accept payment by pre-paid debit cards, by MoneyGram or any similar transfers. The company also does not call customers and demand immediate payment.

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.

O&R is joining more than 140 electric, gas and water providers from North America in dedicating this week to educating customers on avoiding becoming victims. The companies, members of Utilities United Against Scams, have declared the week Utility Scam Awareness Week.

Sometimes impostors go to a customer’s home or business and try to get money by saying the customer is delinquent on O&R bills. 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.  

Another new tactic is for a scammer to call a business or residential customer and say a glitch in O&R’s computer systems prevented the customer’s payments for the last several months from being recorded. These scammers then give the customer the line about needing to buy a pre-paid card.

Here’s are some other methods scammers use:

  • Someone calls and says the customer owes O&R a deposit for a smart meter. The caller tells the customer to make an immediate payment by Bitcoin.  This scam usually targets businesses.  O&R does not require deposits for the smart meters it is installing at homes and businesses across its service area. The company does not accept payment by Bitcoin.
  • Thieves have been known to get into mailboxes to pull out envelopes and open those that may contain payments. O&R advises customers who pay their bills by mail not to place their payments in a mailbox until close to pick-up time.
  • Some scammers leave messages for customers urging them to call back. When the customer calls back, they hear a recorded message identical to the one O&R uses.