With the rise in mercury comes a rise in scams, PSE&G says

If you’re thinking, “I could swear I’ve read something like this before,” you’re right. Because yet again, PSE&G — one of many companies “portrayed”  by scammers to steal from unsuspecting consumers — is warning the rise in mercury carries with it a rise in scammers scamming the scammable.

The scammers call, pretending to be PSE&G employees or impersonating other prominent area utilities, threatening to turn off service for nonpayment. PSE&G urges customers to understand scammers’ tactics and do the right thing if confronted with a demand for payment: Get the truth from the real PSE&G at 800-436-PSEG (7734).

And remember — scammers know how to spoof telephone numbers, so even if your caller ID says the name of the utility or correct phone number, hang up immediately, then call back.

“Protecting our customers is a top priority. It is critically important we continue to raise awareness and educate customers about how to spot and stop potential scams,” Jane Bergen, director of billing, Customer Care for PSE&G, said. “Scammers continue to adapt and develop increasingly sophisticated tactics to take advantage of our customers.”

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, scammers increased calls, texts, emails and in-person tactics, and they continue to contact utility customers asking for immediate payment to avoid service disconnection.

PSE&G never sends just one notification to a customer within an hour of a service disconnection.

Also, the company would not require payment with a prepaid debit card, gift card (from places like Target, Best Buy, Google Play, Apple, etc.) or any form of cryptocurrency or third-party digital payment via fund transfer applications.

PSE&G offers a variety of payment options and would never require a specific type of payment.

The same is true of every other utility — and of most businesses.

Signs youre likely being scammed

You get a threat to disconnect your service: Scammers may aggressively tell the customer their utility bill is past due and service will be disconnected if a payment is not made  usually within an hour.

You get a request for immediate payment: Scammers may instruct the customer to purchase a prepaid card, a gift card or even Bitcoin, and then to call them back to make a phone payment. They may request the customer use a payment app to make an online payment, or even give instructions for an in-person meeting.

Many times after the customer makes the first payment, the scammer will call back to ask for the payment to be resubmitted due to an error with the amount. The scammer refers to a new amount and claims that the original payment will be refunded. The refund, of course, is never granted.

 You experience in person-demands: Scammers may arrive at your home or business, flash a fake ID and/or claim to be a utility-collection representative. The impostors may wear “uniforms” or affix false company signs to their vehicles. The scammers generally ask for personal information or offer discounts, which a real PSE&G representative would not do.

• You get request for card information: If a customer calls back with requested information, the scammer asks the customer for the prepaid card’s number or gift-card PIN, which grants the scammer instant access to the card’s funds, and the victim’s money is gone. 

You can and must protect yourself against scams. Heres how:

• Be alert to the telltale sign of a scam: someone asking by telephone or email for payment in pre-paid debit cards or fund transfer app, or to send money to an out-of-state address.

• Never arrange payment or provide account or personal information, including Social Security numbers or debit/credit card information, over the telephone unless you are certain you are speaking to a PSE&G representative.

• Customers should also know what PSE&G will and won’t discuss over the phone. A genuine PSE&G representative will ask to speak to the “Customer of Record.” If that person is available, the representative will explain why they are calling and provide the account name, address and current balance. If the person on the phone does not provide the correct information, it is likely the customer is not speaking with a PSE&G representative.

• If the “Customer of Record” 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 (800) 357-2262.

If customers have doubts about the legitimacy of a call or an email — especially one in which payment is requested — they should call PSE&G directly at (800)436-PSEG. For more information on scams, visit pseg.com/scamalert.

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Kevin A. Canessa Jr. is the editor of and broadcaster at The Observer, a place where he has served on and off since 2006. He is responsible for the editorial content of the newspaper and website, the production of the e-Newspaper, writing several stories per week (including the weekly editorial), conducting live broadcasts on Facebook Live, including a weekly recap of the news — and much more behind the scenes. Between 2006 and 2008, he introduced the newspaper to its first-ever blog — which included podcasts, audio and video. Originally from Jersey City, Kevin lived in Kearny until 2004, lived in Port St. Lucie. Florida, for four years until February 2016 and in March of that year, he moved back to West Hudson to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.