Trenton, NJ – The New Jersey Utilities Association (NJUA), the state-wide trade association for investor-owned utilities, is urging all New Jersey utility customers to be on high alert for a nation-wide phone scam during which scammers demand payment via a pre-paid card.
“Identity theft continues to be a growing crime. In recent years, customers from Jersey Central Power & Light, South Jersey Gas, Atlantic City Electric and most recently, PSE&G and others, have been contacted by scammers making bogus claims of delinquent bills,” said Andrew Hendry, NJUA President and Chief Executive Officer. “Residents and business owners must be cautious of anyone threatening to shut off service without immediate payment.”
During this latest scam callers posing as utility company employees contact customers threatening to shut off power unless an immediate payment is made using a pre-paid debt card such as a Green Dot card. These pre-paid cards are available at convenience stores and drug stores, such as CVS, Rite Aid and Wawa, and can be used by consumers to pay bills or add money to online accounts.
Customers are given instructions to call a phony scammer phone number back once they have purchased the pre-paid card. When the victims call the number, they hear interactive voice response prompts that imitate those they would hear when calling their utility company’s real customer service line.
When a fake customer service representative answers the phone, consumers are asked for the cards’ account number. Once the scammer obtains this information, the value is downloaded and stolen from the card within minutes.
“All of NJUA’s member companies have a number of ways customers can pay bills, from electronic billing, to equal payment plans, to paying in person by mail. No company will terminate service without alerting customers in a number of ways, including: messages on their bill, letters and phone calls,” said Mary Patricia Keefe, chairperson of NJUA’s board of directors and vice president of regulatory affairs and business support for Elizabethtown Gas. “Any customer who has doubts about a call from someone claiming to be from their utility company should immediately contact their utility’s customer service number.”
NJUA reminds customers to never give out sensitive information to anyone who many contact them by phone claiming to represent a company or allow anyone into their home unless they have a valid company identification badge.
For a full list of NJUA member companies and their customer service phone numbers, visit http://www.njua.com.