NJ Police Chiefs Association, NJUA warn of new utility scams while offering tips to combat them

Scammers are getting even more clever these days and as such, the state’s police chiefs association is partnering with the New Jersey Utilities Association to urge New Jerseyans to be aware of criminals claiming to be utility workers to gain access to residences.

Despite ongoing efforts to educate residents, police say they have seen a steady stream of victims reporting fake workers who are finding ways to gain access to homes and stealing belongings.

The typical scam involves two workers who knock on a front door, claiming to be utility employees. One distracts the resident, perhaps to check a utility panel or meter, while the other roams free, robbing the dwelling of money or valuable items.

Scammers use many effective excuses, such as allegedly overdue bills while demand cash; checking water and sewer lines or taking water samples.

“The police chiefs have a strong message for residents — always check these workers for identification and never give them money,” Mitch Sklar, executive director of the New Jersey State Association of Chiefs of Police, said. “Unless there is a true emergency, it is extremely rare for service technicians to visit customers without a confirmed appointment.”

Richard Henning, executive director of the NJUA, said the association is commonly made aware of these ongoing scams. He noted a recent case in Paterson, where a bold imposter was caught on camera looking in a mailbox before concocting a story for the resident to gain access as a utility worker. Fortunately, the resident would not the resident him inside to “change the service.”

“This is still too common of a problem in New Jersey and we are doing everything we can to spread the work to residents to be aware,” Henning said. “We appreciate the partnership with law enforcement, as we all need to work together to education people about what has become, sadly, a very successful scam in our state.”

The NJUA offers these important tips resident should follow:

n  Always ask for a company-issued photo ID. All utility employees in New Jersey carry company-issued photo ID badges.

n Do not share your utility account numbers or other personal information. Legitimate technicians will not ask for this.

n Look for a corporate logo. All service personnel wear uniforms and drive company-branded vehicles with a company logo. At times, utilities use contracted services from other established companies, and those companies have branded vehicles and identification.

n Note the time. Technicians usually work regular business hours. If you are getting a knock at the door late at night or on weekends, and there is no apparent emergency, assume it is a scam.

n Never give money. Utility workers never collect money or credit card information from customers in the field. Also, never buy gift cards — they cannot, under any circumstance, at any time, for any reason, be used to pay utility bills. If you are asked to purchase a gift card, you are being scammed — 100% of the time.

n If you suspect someone may be a utility imposter, close and lock your door, and immediately call 911. You should also contact your utility company confirm whether service work is scheduled in your neighborhood.

Learn more at www.NJUA.com.

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