Have you ever answered your phone and had that immediate feeling in your gut that something just wasn’t right? They say, always follow your gut.
Did you know that nearly 1 million consumers have filed fraud complaints so far this year, on track with the more than 1.2 million filed last year?* And, that’s likely just a fraction of the fraud being perpetrated in this country.
In one common “impostor scam,” someone pretending to be a utility employee calls and threatens shut-off within an hour if they do not receive immediate payment via a prepaid card, a gift card or even Bitcoins. Victims are given a phony phone number to call back after they have purchased the cards.
Scammers have grown sophisticated – using technology to spoof caller ID numbers and mimic voice prompts heard on a legitimate customer service line. When the customer calls back with payment, a fake representative asks for the prepaid card number, the number on the receipt or the gift card PIN. Within seconds the money is gone.
These thieves can – and do – target anyone. But they more often target small business customers because they have larger bills than residential customers, but don’t have the checks and balances of a large business.
Some stories are heartbreaking. An employee at an animal hospital withdrew money from her personal bank account to pay a thief. A dental assistant did the same. On the Friday before the busy Labor Day weekend, a pizzeria owner was conned out of $2,500. When told his payment did not go through, he paid again.
To combat these con artists, more than 100 utilities across North America – including PSE&G – have joined forces to share information, resources and scam-fighting best practices. The collaborative established the third Wednesday in November as “Utilities United Against Scams (UUAS) Day” and Nov. 12 through 16 as UUAS Week.
Utilities are taking this opportunity to educate the public about scams, #StopScams. Go to pseg.com/scamalert to learn how to spot red flags. Please report scam attempts to your utility, local police department and the FTC. This data will help us combat the con games.
There is a reason that scam call center busts in India continue to make news. Hiding behind an untraceable phone, sometimes half a world away, scammers know it’s doubtful they will be caught. By increasing customer awareness and educating people about how to spot a scam, we can spare many would-be victims and make the thieves’ underhanded job a lot harder.
*Statistics obtained from the Federal Trade Commission.