Local businesses should be on alert for a new phone scam that is making the rounds where the caller pretends to be from a utility company and demands money, according to Putnam County Sheriff Donald B. Smith.
Several local businesses, many of them restaurants, have received telephone calls from an individual claiming to be a representative from New York State Electric and Gas who is calling about billing matters, according to the Sheriff's Office.
Some customers have been contacted and warned that to avoid their service from being shut off they would have to make payment immediately. The caller instructs the merchant that the only way to resolve the matter and avoid an interruption of service is to immediately go and purchase a “Green Dot Money Pak” and contact the caller with the card information, the Department said.
The phone calls may be received during the busy hours of operation making it more urgent to comply with the caller’s demands, they added.
Green Dot Money Paks can be purchased in several retail stores throughout the region. They are similar to Western Union and Money Grams where once information is provided about the intended recipient; the recipient can pick up the money anywhere in the world that provides that service.
Smith added, “Anyone believing that they have been victimized by this scam is asked to report it immediately to the Federal Trade Commission at http://www.ftc.gov/ , their local police or the Sheriff’s Office at 845-225-4300.”
NYSEG officials are aware of this scam and said customers should know they never call a customer in good standing or ever ask for payment with a debit card.
Customers who need to make an urgent payment should do so by calling NYSEG directly at 1-800-600-2275 to ensure that their account is properly credited.
Customers who have any questions about a call they have received for an overdue payment are urged to contact the power company 1-800-572-1111.