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November 14, 2017

Be Aware of Utility Bill Payment Scams

United Scam Awareness Day reminds customers to remain vigilant against scammers

Electric, water and natural gas customers throughout the country are being targeted by utility scams each day. That is why Central Hudson Gas & Electric Corp. stands with more than 100 utility companies across North America in support of Utilities United Against Scams (UUAS).  The second annual Utility Scam Awareness Day will be observed on Wednesday, November 15, to help expose the tactics scammers use and educate residents and small business owners on how to protect themselves.

“Central Hudson is promoting this important awareness campaign to help our customers recognize signs of a potential scam and to avoid becoming victimized by thieves,” said Charles A. Freni, Senior Vice President of Customer Services and Transmission & Distribution Operations. 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.

Freni explained that 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. 

“Central Hudson employees and authorized contractors drive marked vehicles and carry photo identification, and will always display it upon request,” said Freni. “If there is ever any doubt, customers may call Central Hudson for confirmation.” He added that customers may also wish to note caller ID information, license plates or email addresses and report the incident to their local police department.

UUAS is dedicated to combating utility scams by providing a forum for utilities and trade associations to share data and best practices, in addition to working together to implement initiatives to inform and protect customers.

Visit www.UtilitiesUnited.org for more information and tips about how customers can protect themselves from scams; visit www.CentralHudson.com/ScamCentral for information and to view a video on spotting and avoiding scams; and follow Central Hudson on social media for notifications about local scam activity: Facebook.com/CentralHudson and www.Twitter.com/CentralHudson.

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Central Hudson joins Utilities United Against Scams to help expose the tactics scammers use and educate residents and small business owners on how to protect themselves.