ALBANY — The state Division of Consumer Protection and Department of Public Service are alerting people of phone scams.
Officials said scammers are threatening to cut off electricity service unless they receive payment for money past due. Payment is requested by means of untraceable services such as money transfer apps.
Scammers may also try to steal personal information from unsuspecting victims. In these cases, the caller “spoofs” the official phone number of the Department of Public Service and calls people seeking payment for outstanding utility bills to avoid disconnection of service.
Pursuant to Gov. Cuomo’s March 13 PAUSE directive, the Department of Public Service worked with the state’s utility companies to make sure no New Yorkers would have their utilities cut off for nonpayment during the coronavirus pandemic.
Officials said calls have also been reported from scammers claiming to be from New York electric and gas utilities. The callers ask for consumer information including utility account numbers, Social Security numbers and dates of birth, and request payment for past-due bills.
To avoid these scams, officials said people should never give personal information over the phone and should not respond to any questions, especially those that can be answered “Yes” or “No.” People should be cautious if they are being pressured for information immediately.
People can use call-blocking tools from their phone provider and check into apps that block calls. The Federal Communications Commission allows phone companies to block robocalls by default based on reasonable analytics (see fcc.gov/robocalls).
The state Division of Consumer Protection also investigates “Do Not Call” violations and provides voluntary mediation between a consumer and a business when a consumer has been unsuccessful at reaching a resolution on their own. The consumer assistance helpline (1-800-697-1220) is available Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., excluding holidays, and consumer complaints can be file at any time at www.dos.ny.gov/consumerprotection.
The division can also be reached via Twitter at @NYSConsumer or Facebook at www.facebook.com/nysconsumer.