Local residents are being warned about a new utility scam in which people are asked to pay money or risk having their power shut off.
The scam consists of callers pretending to be Central Hudson employees warning customers their power will be shut off because of a past-due bill, Greene County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Adam Brainard said. Some residents were told a technician will be sent to their homes to shut off the power.
The sheriff’s office was made aware of the scam Wednesday, Brainard said.
“It came in through an email — sometimes we get tips like that,” he said.
Being told over the phone that power is cut is a red flag, as Central Hudson will send mail correspondence long in advance before the power is shut off, Brainard said.
“It’s a very long process for them to shut the power off,” he said. “It’s not going to be as simple as a phone call.”
Some scammers have visited residents’ homes claiming to be Central Hudson employees.
“They change their tactics all the time,” he said. “The scams are generally different.”
Scams can be hard to track because fraudulent callers have access to technology to mask a number when it appears on caller ID, Brainard said. He recommends taking down the number from and calling Central Hudson to verify the situation. Central Hudson bills have a legitimate number for the company on them.
“If you’re unsure about it, I would verify it,” Brainard said.
Scams of all kinds related to Central Hudson have been on the uptick the last five years, Central Hudson spokeswoman Denise VanBuren said.
Scammers use various techniques such as asking customers to buy a prepaid credit card to pay off a fine and meet them on the street to get the card.
“These scammers are very clever; they have a variety of ways they call you,” VanBuren said. “These scams are targeting utility customers across the country.”
Scammers often manipulate the caller ID to make it appear as if they are calling locally, when the call can be originating from as far as Nevada.
“They are often not in our service territory,” VanBuren said.
If a scammer shows up in person, customers should ask to see a Central Hudson identification tag. In addition, the company’s legitimate workers should arrive in a marked vehicle of some kind. Legitimate Central Hudson representatives don’t demand payment over the phone, VanBuren said.
If customers sense a scam they should report it to local authorities and Central Hudson, VanBuren said. Central Hudson representatives work with police on scams to ensure scammers are prosecuted.
“They’re really our partners in this,” she said. “If you’re ever in doubt hang up or close the door and call Central Hudson.”
Central Hudson is one of several utility companies across the country supporting the program Utilities United Against Scams. Both private citizens and business owners have fallen for scams in the past.
“It’s important for us to all be vigilant,” VanBuren said.