PSEG Long Island operates the Long Island Power Authority's transmission and distribution system under a long-term contract.
FREMONT, CA: PSEG Long Island joined Utilities United Against Scams (UUAS) to recognize the fifth annual Utility Scam Awareness Week. National Scam Awareness Week is an advocacy and awareness campaign focused on educating customers and exposing scammers' tactics.
"This year has presented many challenges, and scammers prey on us when we are distracted," said Rick Walden, vice president of Customer Services, PSEG Long Island. "More than 5,400 scam calls have been reported to PSEG Long Island this year. We participate in the UUAS awareness campaign to educate and help decrease the number of customers that fall victim to the scammers."
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 use cash or purchase a prepaid card, a gift card, or even Bitcoin, and then call them back, supposedly to make a phone payment to the utility company, or to receive 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 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 the 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.
"Customers need to be on high alert as we continue to see impostor utility scams rise across North America," said UUAS Executive Director Monica Martinez. "Scammers demand money or personal information on the spot—usually with threatening language—and indicate that service will be disconnected immediately. Anyone and everyone, from senior households to small business owners, is at risk of being targeted."
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 create awareness of standard and new scam tactics and cease operations of nearly 5,000 toll-free numbers used against utility customers by scammers.