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Phone scam: New Yorkers pay now or lose your lights and gas

State consumer officials said a telephone scam targets

State consumer officials said a telephone scam targets callers with threats to shut off their utilities without immediate payment. Credit: Newsday/Robert Sciarrino

New Yorkers beware.

Crooks posing as gas and electric company workers are targeting callers with threats of shut off utilities unless immediate payment is made by phone, state officials said Tuesday.

The aim of the scheme is to keep an unsuspecting caller on the line just long enough to provide personal financial information, according to the state Division of Consumer Protection and the state Department of Public Service, which both issued the statewide warning Tuesday.

The "scammers" ask for payments by untraceable services such as gift cards and money transfer apps including PayPal and Zelle, according to state officials.

"Scammers use persuasive tactics to try to get their hands on unsuspecting consumers’ money before they have time to confirm what scammers are telling them," said state Secretary of State Rossana Rosado in a news release Tuesday. "Like many others, this latest utility scam is prying on vulnerable New Yorkers who believe in the empty threats to shut off their utilities. New York consumers should be aware of some basic tips to keep their hard-earned money safe from scammers."

Consumers are advised to hang up on anyone warning their utilities will be shut off without immediate payment.

Utilities give notice of termination by reaching out to consumers with a past due payment by phone and offering options to pay, state officials said. Utilities do not specify a payment must be done via a prepaid card or non-traceable money transfer, officials said.

"If someone demands payment via a non-traceable method, consumers just need to pull the plug on these scams by hanging up the phone and reporting the calls," the release said.

Information is available by contacting the Consumer Assistance Helpline at 1-800-697-1220, which is available Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., not including state holidays. Consumer complaints can be filed at www.dos.ny.gov/consumerprotection

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