PSE&G has joined Utilities United Against Scams (UUAS) in its public awareness campaign aimed at educating businesses and residential customers about tactics that imposters use in phone calls, emails and in-person to defraud unsuspecting utility customers.
PSE&G and UUAS, a consortium of more than 150 U.S. and Canadian electric, water, and natural gas utilities, is observing Utility Scam Awareness Week Nov. 15–19, by reminding customers that utility companies never call customers to ask for personal information over the phone. Nor do they demand immediate payment using pre-paid debit cards, cryptocurrencies, or by using third-party payment apps, such as Cash App, Venmo, or Zelle.
“The pandemic has created financial hardship and escalated stress levels for many of our customers, and that is a perfect environment for scammers to thrive,” said Deb Affonsa, PSE&G’s vice president Customer Care and chief customer officer. “Bad actors create the impression of an urgent problem in the hopes that our customers will panic, preventing our customers from seeing all the clues that they are indeed being scammed.
Affonsa said PSE&G is not currently shutting off residential customers for nonpayment and wants to help its customers who are behind on their energy bills with affordable payment agreements.
UUAS said utility scammers can be extremely sophisticated, and it is not always easy for customers to discern that they are dealing with an imposter. UUAS provides these fraud prevention tips:
- Scammers often threaten immediate service disconnections. They ask for personal information or demand payments to prevent service interruptions.
- Scammers have been taking advantage of increased online activities during the pandemic. They are asking for payments over the phone by using digital payment apps, cryptocurrencies, or direct transactions with banking institutions.
- Scammers are using tactics to prey on households with tight budgets. Scammers will inform customers that they have overpaid utility bills and are due a refund, but first they need to provide their banking information to process the refund. They also may claim that immediate bill payment will result in a discount or that a charitable donation can be made in exchange for a lesser bill payment.
- Scammers also are posing as utility employees by claiming the number on the caller ID does not match the utility’s phone number due to the company’s COVID-19 remote work policies.
“It’s perfectly acceptable for the customer to hang up the phone. The scammer’s initial goal is to pressure their targets and convince them that they work for the utility,” said UUAS Executive Director Monica Martinez.
“Scammers are extremely sophisticated in their tactics, and, by simply ending the call, you can end their scam. If you are unsure, you can always call back the utility by dialing the number found on your bill or on their website, and they will provide you with the correct information.”
PSE&G is a member of the UUAS collaborative, which has helped to create awareness of common and new scam tactics and to shut down the operations of nearly 5,000 toll-free numbers used against utility customers by scammers.
PSE&G reminds its customers of the following:
- A genuine PSE&G representative will ask to speak to the account owner.
- If that person is available, the representative will explain why they are calling and provide the account name, address and current balance.
- If the account owner is not available, the PSE&G representative will not discuss the account at all and ask that a message be left for the Customer of Record to call 1-800-436-PSEG (7734).
- PSE&G never requires payment with a prepaid debit card and does not offer bill discounts. PSE&G does also not accept payment via prepaid gift cards, digital money transfer apps or cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin.