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National Consumer Protection Week

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This year, March 5-11 marks National Consumer Protection Week, and PSEG Long Island urges customers to understand scammers’ tactics and do the right thing if confronted with a demand for payment and a threat of imminent shutoff: Get the truth from the real PSEG Long Island at 1-800-490-0025.

“Consumer Protection Week is a time to help people understand their consumer rights and avoid frauds and scams. PSEG Long Island wants customers to remember one simple thing: If someone threatens to immediately shut off your power, call the number that’s printed on your bill to verify before acting,” said Lou DeBrino, PSEG Long Island’s vice president of Customer Services. “Scammers do everything they can to create the impression of an urgent problem in the hopes that you panic and miss all the clues that they’re not who they appear to be. Please be alert to the possibility of a scam, take a moment to think, and then contact us directly using the phone number on your bill if you’re still not sure.”

More than 2,500 scam calls were reported to PSEG Long Island in 2022. Many of these scammers are demanding immediate payment via web-based electronic payment services. PSEG Long Island does not accept external, web-based electronic payment services (outside of payments through MyAccount) as a method of payment.

What customers should know about payment scams

  • Scammers impersonating PSEG Long Island most frequently threaten to shut off power immediately unless payment is made.
  • Many scammers use phone “spoofing” technology to make their number display on your phone as “PSEG Long Island.”
  • PSEG Long Island will never request that customers use one specific method of payment.
  • Scammers typically want their victims to transfer money via a web-based electronic payment service, a prepaid debit card, or even Bitcoin, sometimes asking people to buy a prepaid card at the nearest convenience store and then to read them the PIN over the phone.
  • PSEG Long Island does not accept web-based electronic payment services, prepaid debit cards or Bitcoin as payment.
  • Sometimes phone scammers will demand a deposit for a priority meter installation. PSEG Long Island does not require a deposit for meter installations.
  • If a customer has doubts about the legitimacy of a call or an email — especially one in which payment is requested — they should call the company directly at 1-800-490-0025.

In-person visits

Occasionally, scammers may go door to door impersonating PSEG Long Island employees, flashing a fake ID and/or claiming to be a utility collection representative. The impostors may wear “uniforms” or affix false company signs to their vehicles. The scammers generally ask for personal information, which real utility representatives do not do, or offer bogus discounts. Again, if customers have any doubts, they should not let the person in, and should call 1-800-490-0025 to verify.

PSEG Long Island employees must carry a company ID and present it when requested. If customers have doubts, do not let the person into the house and call 1-800-490-0025 to have a customer service representative verify that an employee has been dispatched to the location. An actual PSEG Long Island employee will respect the customer’s decision and remain outside. If the person escalates their efforts to enter the home, customers should consider calling 911.

Fake websites

Some scammers purchase web domains that closely resemble the actual URL of a utility and create a fraudulent replica of the legitimate website. Their plan is to dupe users who click on these fake sites via search results, or type in an inaccurate web address. Once on the spoofed site, a visitor is presented a number of bill payment options, all pointing back to an outside bill pay site.

PSEG Long Island always uses the “.com” domain. Its real website can be found at www.psegliny.com.

How actual PSEG Long Island reps handle phone calls

Customers should also know what PSEG Long Island will and won’t discuss over the phone. A genuine PSEG Long Island representative will ask to speak to the Customer of Record. If that person is available, the representative will explain why they are calling and provide the account name, address and current balance. If the person on the phone does not provide the correct information, it is likely the customer is not speaking with a PSEG Long Island representative.

If the Customer of Record is not available, the PSEG Long Island representative will not discuss the account at all and ask that a message be left for the Customer of Record to call 1-800-490-0025.

PSEG Long Island is a member of the Utilities United Against Scams (UUAS) collaborative. UUAS, a consortium of more than 145 U.S. and Canadian electric, water, and natural gas utilities and their respective trade associations, has helped to create awareness of common and new scam tactics and to cease operations of nearly 5,000 toll-free numbers used against utility customers by scammers.

For more information on various payment scams reported in the PSEG Long Island service area and around the country, visit https://www.psegliny.com/myaccount/customersupport/scamsandfraud.

Maggie Hamm, of Leisure Village, speaks about how she almost fell victim to a scam, at a press conference held at the Rosa Caracappa Senior Center in Mount Sinai on March 11. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“Don’t trust anyone.”

That’s what Bernard Macias of AARP advised seniors to do at a press conference held at the Rosa Caracappa Senior Center in Mount Sinai regarding phone scams across Suffolk County.

“It’s happening more and more than you think,” he said. “Clearly, for AARP, we’re here to protect people 50 and over, but we’re finding that our member’s children and grandchildren and being faced with this. Don’t trust anyone, really, because they’re constantly changing those scams.”

Bernard Macias, Associate State Director of Outreach on Long Island for the American Association of Retired Persons, tells residents not to trust anyone when answering a call, as it may be related to scam, especially around tax season. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Bernard Macias, Associate State Director of Outreach on Long Island for the American Association of Retired Persons, tells residents not to trust anyone when answering a call, as it may be related to scam, especially around tax season. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said that in 2015, the total cost of financial fraud against seniors across the country was $36.5 billion. Although anyone can be a victim of scam, con artists particularly prey on seniors, he said.

“That is an extraordinary sum that is being stolen from our citizens,” he said. “Tax day is April 15, it is fast approaching and it is a time that scam artists are working hard to get a hold of people’s hard-earned money.”

Bellone said that in one instance, a scamming entity posed as the Internal Revenue Service and said that if the person did not provide a certified check or transfer funds to the agency, they would be imprisoned. The caller went so far as the tell the victim that they would remain on the line until the woman reached her bank and successfully wired the funds to an account that was provided, he said.

Luckily, the bank manager recognized the customer and noticed that she looked and sounded worried, Bellone said. The victim told the manager about the person she was on the phone with, and the manager was able to stop the scam from happening.

This week is National Consumer Protection Week and as a result, Bellone said the county is urging citizens to remain informed. He said so far, Suffolk County Consumer Affairs has recovered over $534,000 through its investigations on behalf of county residents.

“These scammers use all kinds of threats and demands to gain access to your accounts, and threaten your identity,” he said.

The county executive urged those who felt vulnerable to a scam to file a complaint with the consumer affairs department by calling (631) 853-4600.

To avoid an IRS scam, Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) said that AARP offers free tax filings for senior citizens. Some locations in the town include the senior center and town hall, among local libraries, he said.

Maggie Hamm shares how she almost fell victim to a scam. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Maggie Hamm shares how she almost fell victim to a scam. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Maggie Hamm, of Leisure Village, received two suspicious phone calls within three weeks. She said that during the one call she did answer, TD Bank was mentioned. Hamm used to have an account with the organization, which she said piqued her interest in listening to what the caller had to say. The person on the other end of the phone mentioned having or owing money, which she said sounded off.

“I asked, ‘is this a scam? And boom, he hung up the phone,” she said. “You just know — you get a vibe and a red flag goes off. I think as we get older you don’t want to make any waves, and I understand seniors become afraid and concerned, because they don’t want any trouble, but you can’t be afraid to step forward and say no.”

Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) said she too received two messages on her phone that were related to scams.

“Help us help you,” is what the caller said at the end of one of the messages.

Anker said she tried to call back the number, but the call didn’t go through.

“People will actually fall for it,” Anker said. “They’re trying to catch the person on the phone right away, because once they get you in person, the level of scamming has increased.”

She asked residents to call the Suffolk County Police Department to report the scam as a crime, at (631) 852-COPS. Two years ago, the legislator also created a scam alert website, SCPDscamalert.org, which has more information on how to protect yourself against incidents involving scam.

Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) said that calling 4(631) 51-TOWN would also provide residents with more information.

“If it doesn’t seem right, it probably isn’t right,” she said. “You should always follow your instincts and your gut, and the government will never call you when you’ve done something wrong. They’re required to mail you as proof of documentation. Don’t fall prey to the phone call.”

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone urged residents to remain cautious when answering the phone, as a result of the increase in phone scams across the county. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone urges residents to remain cautious when answering the phone, as a result of the increase in phone scams across the county. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Macias, who said AARP serves over 500,000 members on Long Island, said, in light of tax day, to mail in tax returns as early in the season as possible, not to give out personal information and to shred all personal documents.
Three important facts Macias said to understand is that the IRS will never call and demand payment over the phone, the IRS does not ask for credit or debit card information over the phone and the IRS does not threaten to bring local law enforcement to your home.

“Scam artists continue to devise new things and new schemes that are becoming more and more difficult to detect, which is why AARP developed the AARP Fraud Watch Network as a way to protect people,” he said.

By logging onto aarp.org/money and clicking on the Consumer Protection tab, residents can access a link to the company’s Fraud Watch Network. There, anyone can sign up to get AARP’s Watchdog Alerts on scammers’ latest tricks and find out what to do if you’ve been victimized.

“You’re not only helping yourself, but helping other who may fall victim to the same scam,” Bellone said. “Don’t feel embarrassed to come forward. Feel empowered to help educate and protect others.”