Company Working with Other Utilities During Scam Awareness Week; #StopScams
The merciless scammers who seek to steal from Con Edison customers have increased their efforts as the region and nation fight through a health crisis.
Con Edison gets up to 20 complaints a day from customers who say they received suspicious phone calls from people claiming to be from the company and demanding money. That is a marked increase from past years. (See a video on avoiding scams.)
In one of the most common scams, someone calls and says the customer’s bill is delinquent and service will be turned off unless the customer immediately buys a pre-paid card and provides the scammer with the number. Once the customer puts money on the card and provides the scammer with the card number, the scammer steals the money.
These callers sometimes point the customer to a store that sells pre-paid cards. The scammers target residential and business customers in all parts of Con Edison’s New York City and Westchester County service area. Spanish-speaking customers often receive calls from scammers who are fluent in Spanish.
Con Edison does not accept payment by pre-paid debit cards, MoneyGram or similar transfers. The company does not call customers and demand immediate payment. Further, Con Edison has stopped turning off service for non-payment during the health emergency.
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 Con Edison. If you are unsure call 1-800-75-CONED to check.
“We want our customers to know the tactics these criminals use to try to get their money,” said Wade Hardy, a section manager in Con Edison’s Corporate Security department, “We also encourage people to talk to their family and friends about this. The more people who are knowledgeable about these scams, the less chance the scammers have of succeeding.”
Scam callers can even make a Con Edison phone number show up on the customer’s caller ID.
Demanding an immediate payment in return for electric or gas not being turned off forces a customer to make a quick decision under pressure.
One woman called Con Edison recently to say that she was outside a store and wanted to confirm that she needed to buy a $900 pre-paid card in order to keep her service, which is what a scammer had told her minutes earlier.
The Con Edison representative who answered her call implored her not to buy the pre-paid card. Expressing anguish about her dilemma, the customer agreed after several minutes not to buy the card.
Once scammers experience success with a customer, they keep calling for more money. One customer made payments of $500, $700 and $1,400 this year.
Con Edison is joining more than 140 electric, gas and water providers from North America in dedicating this week to educating customers on avoiding becoming victims. The companies, members of Utilities United Against Scams, have declared the week Utility Scam Awareness Week and Wednesday Utility Scam Awareness Day
Through its work and with the help of customer reporting, UUAS has succeeded in taking nearly 9,500 toll-free numbers used by scammers against utility customers out of operation.
Sometimes impostors go to a customer’s home or business and try to get money by saying the customer is delinquent on Con Edison bills and threatening a service turnoff.
If someone comes to your home or business claiming to be from Con Edison, ask for identification. If you are still unsure, call 1-800-75-CONED.
Customers should also be aware of these scammer tactics:
- A scammer may call a business or residential customer and say a computer glitch prevented the customer’s payments from being recorded. These scammers then urge the customer to buy a pre-paid card.
- Someone calls and says the customer owes Con Edison a deposit for a smart meter. The caller tells the customer to make an immediate payment by Bitcoin. This scam usually targets businesses.
Con Edison does not require deposits for smart meters or accept payment by Bitcoin.
- Some impostors who knock on a residential customer’s door try to talk their way inside to steal or even commit an assault.