O&R Joins National Anti-Scam Campaign to Protect Customers
Don’t Be A Victim: Awareness Best Defense Against Scammers
These professional crooks are as relentless and ruthless as ever.
The crooks in question are the thieves trying to steal O&R customers’ hard-earned money through a variety of scams over the past year and they show no signs of stopping.
And, the coming winter holiday season, with its many pleasures of family, shopping and celebration, provides the kind of distraction that scammers crave and exploit through schemes to steal O&R customers’ money.
To spread the word about this risk, O&R is joining Con Edison and more than 130 electric, natural gas and water providers from across North America in dedicating this week to educating customers on how they can avoid becoming scam victims. The companies, members of Utilities United Against Scams, have declared the week of Nov. 16 as National Utility Scam Awareness Week.
Scammers represent a common enemy for us all. Unfortunately, there are nearly as many different scams to guard against as there are different scammers.
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 that day.
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.
There’s even a new variation on this scenario in which the crook offers a gift card to the customer for immediate payment, which the crook then pockets. The customer never sees a gift card from the crook.
Here are three big reasons not to believe any crook who makes a shutoff threat:
- NO PRE-PAID DEBIT CARDS - O&R does not accept bill payment for electric and gas utility bills by Green Dot or any other prepaid debit cards. Never has.
- NO IMMEDIATE SHUTOFF - Disconnecting O&R electric or gas service for non-payment of bills involves a multi-step process – including written communications from O&R to the customer over a period of several days, or even weeks --- not hours. That process is regulated by the NYS Public Service Commission and NJ Board of Public Utilities.
- NO SHUTOFFS FOR NON-PAYMENT – Because of the COVID-19 public health emergency, the NYS Public Service Commission and NJ Board of Public Utilities. have halted utility service shutoffs for non-payment until further notice. This measure is designed to provide assistance to those who have become unemployed or under employed as a result of COVID-19 to get back on their feet.
If you receive a call from someone claiming to be from O&R or Rockland Electric stating that a payment is required within hours and threatening to immediately shut off your service, O&R urges you to: hang up the phone so you’re not further harassed by the crook’s high-pressure “sales pitch.” After you hang up on them, the more aggressive crooks will try to repeat their shutoff threat by texting you. Ignore the threat.
The caller ID screen on your phone for the crook’s call may read “Orange and Rockland Utilities”, but that’s a hi-tech bogus copy of the utility company’s number. That’s not O&R. Do not redial, and don’t call the number that the caller gives you to call them back. That will reconnect you to the crook.
If you are unsure about whether you have an overdue balance on your O&R bill, the fastest way to find out is to log on to your account through ORU.com. to review your latest account information. You also can call O&R’s automated phone system at 1-877-434-4100. Have your Orange and Rockland account number ready and follow the automated phone prompts to check your balance.
O&R does not accept payment 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.
Orange and Rockland Utilities, Inc. (O&R), a wholly owned subsidiary of Consolidated Edison, Inc., one of the nation’s largest investor-owned energy companies, is a regulated utility. O&R provides electric service to approximately 300,000 customers in southeastern New York State (where its franchise name is Orange & Rockland) and northern New Jersey (where it’s Rockland Electric Company) and natural gas service to approximately 130,000 customers in New York.