Orange & Rockland Utilities Alerts Customers to Surge in Scam Calls Demanding Payment with Prepaid Debit Cards

Orange and Rockland Utilities (O&R) today warned its customers that crooks have launched a new round of predatory phone calls aimed at stealing O&R customers’ money.

This latest round of harassing phone calls started last week when O&R customers reported a rash of phone calls seeking payment for bogus O&R bills.

The scheme goes this way: Crooks posing as O&R employees call unsuspecting customers, inform them that their O&R account has been suspended for non-payment and that an O&R crew will be at their home in 15 minutes to disconnect their electric service.

That threat is quickly followed by a demand for immediate payment of the bogus bill balance by prepaid debit card. Customers who have challenged the crook’s report about the fraudulent bill, saying that they checked their account balance online during the phone call, are dismissed as incorrect. The crook then aggressively renews the demand for immediate payment until the customer agrees to pay or hangs up on the crook.

Here are two big reasons not to believe any crook who makes a shutoff threat:

  • NO PREPAID DEBIT CARDS – O&R does not accept bill payment for electric and gas utility bills by Green Dot or any other prepaid debit cards. Never has.
  • NO IMMEDIATE SHUTOFF – Disconnecting O&R electric or gas service for non-payment of bills involves a multi-step process – including written communications from O&R to the customer over a period of several days, or even weeks — not hours. That process is regulated by the NYS Public Service Commission and NJ Board of Public Utilities.

Customer vigilance is key to fighting off these crooks. They never stop. In fact, a new scam was reported to O&R last week. A Rockland County customer said he had gotten a call from a crook purporting to be working for O&R. The crook said that the customer’s autopay account with O&R was not working. Further, the crook threatened to cut off the customer’s electricity if he did not immediately remedy the situation. How? The crook ordered the customer to call the crook’s “supervisor” on another phone number the crook supplied to the customer and re-enroll in autopay – a task that would reveal the customer’s confidential personal financial information to the crook.

The customer wisely did not comply with the crook’s orders because the customer knew his autopay was working. If it weren’t, he knew that O&R would contact him by letter or email to notify him of the problem and craft a solution. The customer also knew if there were such an issue, there would be no threat of immediate service shutoff. He knew that any service shutoff for non-payment of bills by O&R requires days, if not weeks. of notice and attempts by O&R to help solve the problem without service interruption. And the customer knew that if the call from the crook were legitimate, the O&R supervisor would be on-site and the customer’s call would have been transferred to him or her.

So, if someone calls you, says they are an O&R employee and threatens to shut off your electric or gas service that day if a bogus bill is not immediately paid through a prepaid debit card, remember these tips:

  • Hang Up – Disengage so you’re not further subjected to the crook’s high-pressure “sales pitch.”
  • Text Scam – After you hang up on them, the more aggressive crooks will try to repeat their shutoff threat by texting you. Ignore the threat. They are crooks.
  • Don’t Hit “REDIAL” – The caller ID screen on your phone for the crook’s call may read “Orange and Rockland Utilities”, but that’s a hi-tech fake copy of the utility company’s number. That’s not O&R. Do not redial, and don’t call the number that the caller gives you to call them back. That will reconnect you to the crook. Block the crook’s number to prevent future harassing calls.
  • Fast Track – If you are unsure about whether you have an overdue balance on your O&R bill, the fastest way to find out is to log onto your account through ORU.com/myaccount to review your latest account information. You also can call O&R’s automated phone system at 1-877-434-4100. Have your Orange and Rockland account number ready and follow the automated phone prompts to check your balance.
  • Check the I.D. – If you are contacted by someone in-person or on the phone who says they represent O&R and you wish to verify their identity:
    – Either ask for their photo ID card, if they are at the door, or
    – Get a call-back number if they are on the phone, and call O&R at: 1-833-460-7059 during business hours Monday – Friday 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. or 1-877-434-4100 O&R’s Customer Service Department off hours to verify their identity.
    – O&R employees and vendors are trained to cooperate with this request and are happy to comply with an identity verification request.

Remember, if you are feeling threatened or otherwise uncomfortable about your security during the exchange, immediately report the incident to your local police department at 911.

About Orange & Rockland

Orange and Rockland Utilities, Inc. (O&R) is a wholly owned subsidiary of Consolidated Edison, Inc., one of the nation’s largest investor-owned energy companies. O&R is a regulated utility that provides electric service to approximately 300,000 customers in southeastern New York State (where its franchise name is Orange and Rockland Utilities) and northern New Jersey (where it’s Rockland Electric Company), and natural gas service to approximately 140,000 customers in New York.

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