With a new year comes new tactics as scammers continue trying to extract money from PSEG Long Island customers by impersonating employees on the phone and in person. PSEG Long Island urges customers to be alert for the telltale signs of a scam.
PSEG Long Island reports that scammers contacted more than 500 customers between Dec. 20, 2020 and Jan. 2, 2021, falsely alleging overdue balances and threatening to shut off power without immediate payment.
While the standard tactic of requesting the customer purchase a prepaid debit card to provide payment, such as Green Dot cards available at local pharmacies and convenience stores, is still in use, some scammers have moved on to demanding payment via Zelle, one of several online fund transfer platforms.
PSEG Long Island does not accept payments through prepaid debit cards or Zelle. PSEG Long Island offers a variety of payment options and would never require one specific type of payment.
“Scammers give you a reason to panic and then offer you a quick resolution via payment. They want you to react quickly, without thinking clearly,” said Rick Walden, PSEG Long Island’s vice president of Customer Service. “By demanding payment via Zelle, the scammer is further reducing your time to think by eliminating your trip to the convenience store to buy the prepaid card. With this method, you don’t get the chance to pause and say, ‘Hey, wait a minute,’ while you’re waiting on line at the store.”
“PSEG Long Island has worked for years to educate our customers about common payment scams, and that is paying off,” Walden said. “While scammer tactics are evolving, only 5.1% of the people who reported recent scam attempts actually fell victim to them.”
Signs of potential scam activity:
Threat to disconnect: Scammers may aggressively tell the customer their utility bill is past due and service will be disconnected if a payment is not made – usually within an hour.
Request for immediate payment: Scammers may instruct the customer to purchase a prepaid card, a gift card or even Bitcoin, and then to call them back — supposedly to make a phone payment to the utility company. They may request that the customer use Zelle to make an online payment — or even give instructions for an in-person meeting, supposedly at a utility customer center. Many times after the customer makes the first payment, the scammer will call back to ask for the payment to be resubmitted due to an error with the amount. The scammer refers to a new amount and claims that the original payment will be refunded. Sometimes they will call a third time to say the payment did not go through and to resubmit again.
In person-demands: Scammers may arrive at a home or business, flash a fake ID and/or claim to be a utility collection representative. The impostors may wear “uniforms” or affix false company signs to their vehicles. The scammers generally ask for personal information, which real utility representatives do not do, or offer bogus discounts.
Request for card information: If a customer calls back with requested information, the caller asks the customer for the prepaid card’s number or gift-card PIN, which grants the scammer instant access to the card’s funds, and the victim’s money is gone.
·Priority Meter Installs: Recent phone scams reported to PSEG Long Island include demands for payment for past-due bills or requiring a deposit for a priority meter installation. PSEG Long Island does not require a deposit for meter installations. Often scammers will threaten to disconnect electric service if payment is not made immediately. These scammers often demand payment through a pre-paid card (e.g. Green Dot Money Pak, Vanilla Reload Card) or bitcoin. If the victim takes the bait, the scammer provides a telephone number where a fake representative requests additional information that completes the fraudulent transaction.
Protect yourself against scams:
Be alert to the telltale sign of a scam: someone asking by telephone or email for payment in pre-paid debit cards or a MoneyGram transfer, or to send money to an out-of-state address.
Never arrange payment or divulge account or personal information, including Social Security numbers or debit or credit card information, over the telephone unless you are certain you are speaking to a PSEG Long Island representative.
Customers should also know what PSEG Long Island will and won’t discuss over the phone. A genuine PSEG Long Island representative will ask to speak to the Customer of Record. If that person is available, the representative will explain why they are calling and provide the account name, address and current balance. If the person on the phone does not provide the correct information, it is likely the customer is not speaking with a PSEG Long Island representative.
If the Customer of Record is not available, the PSEG Long Island representative will not discuss the account at all and ask that a message be left for the Customer of Record to call 1-800-490-0025.
If a customer has doubts about the legitimacy of a call or an email — especially one in which payment is requested — call PSEG Long Island directly at 1-800-490-0025.
PSEG Long Island is a member of the UUAS collaborative. UUAS, a consortium of more than 145 U.S. and Canadian electric, water, and natural gas utilities and their respective trade associations, has helped to create awareness of common and new scam tactics and to cease operations of nearly 5,000 toll-free numbers used against utility customers by scammers.
For more information on various payment scams reported in the PSEG Long Island service area and around the country, visit https://www.psegliny.com/myaccount/customersupport/scamsandfraud.