As a social media generalist at PSEG Long Island, part of my job is educating our customers about the dangers of scammers pretending to be utility workers in order to steal money and personal information. Unfortunately, senior citizens are common victims of these scams. This kind of work is important, but it always felt a little abstract: Who actually gets tricked by a phone scammer? Does it even happen? Then, late last month, I got a call from my great aunt telling me she had received a call offering her a refund on her utility bill. All at once it went from abstract to personal.
I always strive to inform my family and friends of popular scam tactics in order to prevent them from having their information stolen. Here’s the new trick that tripped up even my well-informed relative.
My great aunt said that an employee from a local utility company had called to tell her that new legislation had been passed and lowered electric rates across the Island. Customers’ bills were now being rectified, he said, and in order to receive her refund, he needed her credit card information so that the processing fee of $29.99 could be taken out. My aunt was confused (“new legislation?”) and asked the person calling her if this applied to PSEG Long Island as well. It was a good thing she called me afterwards, because I could tell the signs of a scam right away! Here is what stuck out to me immediately.
- The employee offered his name and employee ID, but claimed to be from a local gas utility company, speaking to my aunt about electric rates.
- No PSEG Long Island employee will call you requesting personal information, including credit card numbers or social security numbers.
- PSEG Long Island will never ask for your credit card in order to process a refund. Corrected bills will be sent to you, as we have your account and address on file.
I immediately advised my great aunt to contact her credit card company to report fraudulent activity and inform them that she was a victim of a scam. Her company credit card company found a charge for $29.99, immediately cancelled her card and told her that a new card would be coming in the mail soon. I then told my aunt the following practices that you can share with your family members too:
- Utility employees will not call you soliciting personal information.
- If you are getting a rectified bill you will receive a check in the mail.
- Refunds will come in the form they were paid in. (My aunt pays by check every month, never credit card).
Hearing that someone had attempted to scam my great aunt out of money upset me. My great aunt is a smart, active person. She’s not the stereotypical senior citizen who’s homebound or out of touch with current events or technology. This all proved to me that, if it hits on the right day, a scam can dupe anyone! Whenever she receives mail or phone calls like this she calls me or mom. Thank goodness she called when she did. I’m sharing this story so that you can share it with your loved ones and educate them so that they too can be protected from scammers.
The next time I create a social media post warning about scams, I will remember how it felt when some callous person somewhere took advantage of someone I love and very nearly robbed her blind.
Once you know the signs of a scam, they are easy to identify. Educate yourself and your family to protect yourselves. Education is the best form of prevention. For more please visit http://www.psegliny.com/scams.