Friday, February 19, 2016

Beware of the Utility Bill Payment Scam!

The crooks continue to get more and more creative as the find new ways to steal your money. This time we've learned that they are going after small businesses in an attempt to steal money from them.

Several local businesses have recently been contacted over the phone by persons claiming to be representatives of Con Edison and telling the business that their utility services are going to be shutoff if they don’t make payment right away. The caller then instructs the person to go to CVS and wire a specific amount of money to prevent the utility service from being turned off. It's a scam.

While the focus seems to be on business customers, residential customers of Con Edison should be cautious as well. If you receive such a call, it would be wise, prior to making any payment, to contact Con Edison on your own first to confirm the call actually came from the company.

This is similar to other scams, such as the Grandparent Scam, where they call senior citizens pretending to be a grandchild of theirs and that they were arrested. If you question their "voice" as not sounding like their grandchild, they usually say they have a cold. They'll proceed to explain they've been arrested somewhere distant and don't want to tell their mom and dad, and that's why they're calling them. They'll continue to explain how they need money wired to them for bail (or a lawyer) and instruct the grandparent to withdraw several thousand dollars, go to CVS and send it to them so they can be released from jail.

Most grandparents are loving and unsuspecting and their initial impulse is to comply. There are several things you can do. First, call that loved one directly and ensure they are okay. Call the police and ask for their assistance or call your child, the child's parents and confirm everyone is okay. Never, under any circumstances, should you comply with their request. Many seniors wind up wondering how these people knew so much about the grandchild to be able to sound legitimate? It's as easy as going on Facebook and reading about their next mark.

Additionally, if you have any cause for alarm, doubt or nervousness, you should contact your local Police Department. If the person telling you they are from ConEd or a utility, call Con Edison directly and verify the claim at 1-800-752-6633.

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