POUGHKEEPSIE – Central Hudson Gas & Electric Corporation urges its customers stay vigilant when it comes to utility bill payment scams that continue to take place in the region and have recently become more prevalent.
The scams are not limited to Central Hudson. Customers of any utility can be victims and Orange and Rockland issued a similar warning on Friday.
“We want our customers to know how to recognize signs of a potential scam and to avoid becoming victimized,” said Charles A. Freni, Senior Vice President of Customer Services and Transmission & Distribution Operations. He said that scammers often pose as utility company employees and threaten to disconnect customers’ utility services if they fail to make an immediate payment – typically using a prepaid card or other non-traceable form of payment. The most recent incidents used by scammers have been contacts by telephone, with the caller ID 800-852-6655. Other phone numbers may also be used.
Signs of a potential scam include:
Threat to disconnect: Scammers may aggressively tell the customer his or her 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 – widely available at retail stores – then call them back supposedly to make a bill payment.
Request for prepaid card: When the customer calls back, the caller asks the customer for the prepaid card’s number, which grants the scammer instant access to the card’s funds, and the victim’s money is gone.
Customers can protect themselves by:
Never purchasing a prepaid card to avoid service disconnection or shutoff. Central Hudson does not specify how customers should make a bill payment and offers a variety of payment methods, including online, by phone, automatic bank draft, mail or in person.
Hanging up the phone, deleting the email or shutting the door when threatened with immediate disconnection or shutoff of service. Central Hudson follows state regulations by issuing advance notifications, and never a single call one hour or less before taking action.
Calling Central Hudson for verification using the number on their bill, (845) 452-2700, and not the phone number the scammer provides. If customers ever feel that they are in physical danger, they should call 911.