Scammers try power play

The truth is, some people will lie to separate you from your money.

Dunkirk Police Chief David Ortolano recently received another report of a scam being run locally, this time involving electricity.

“We’re investigating a scam involving people calling and saying they’re employees of National Grid and you are in danger of your electric being shut off because your bill is overdue. They want you to immediately go and get what’s called a Greendot moneypack card, which you can get at a local store or CVS, Walgreens, a Walmart, places like that,” the chief explained. “We had one just recently that targeted a local business and they wanted half of it immediately, otherwise they were going to shut their service off. Once they paid the half then they wanted them, within a day, to pay the other half of it. It’s a scam.

“National Grid, if anyone knows how they deal with it, they won’t shut your power off unless they send you notices. They are required to by the Public Service Commission. They just can’t shut your power off and they’re not going to call you on the phone and tell you they’re shutting your power off. You will get some kind of notice.”

Ortolano advised anyone getting such a call to find Grid’s 1-800 number on an old bill or elsewhere and call the company.

“This scam that we’re investigating from this week, the person ended up calling National Grid after he thought something wasn’t right. He did get taken for some money, but then they called back and wanted the rest of the payment,” Ortolano stated. “He did call National Grid and they did confirm that they did not call, he does not owe money, and no, they were not going to shut his electric service off.”

Ortolano said he has gotten similar calls at home.

“Sometimes my caller ID even shows a banking institution on it. I will not give them that information. My advice to everyone is do not give that information. On the back of your debit card or credit card is a 1-800 number, call that number,” he explained. “In more than one instance when I call that number they say, ‘no, your card is fine. There’s been nothing compromised, don’t worry about it.’

“What they are trying to do is get your information, get your card number and get your Social Security number. The next thing you know your bank account is empty, your charge card is maxed out.”

Scams come via phone, mail and email, all with the same purpose, to separate a person from their money. For phone calls that are suspicious, the chief advised hanging up immediately.

“Tell them that this is a scam and you’re calling the police department and I guarantee you they probably won’t call you back,” Ortolano added. “Just hang up and ignore it. They’ll give up after a while, but if they think they can get a bite into you they’re going to continue to go on and on.”

Ortolano said a city resident was having trouble with phone calls and he paid a visit and came back with the offending number to call.

“It was amazing, the voices on the other end were definitely from an overseas call center, number one. Number two, when I tried asking them questions and said I want to speak to their supervisor, they got quite animated with the answer to me with where I could find their supervisor,” he stated. “I think they realized and then I told them I was with the police department and I was investigating and they were a scam. They got a little animated with me and told me some words I can’t repeat for the newspapers. Needless to say they stopped calling.”

Ortolano offered some advice on how to avoid being scammed.

“All I can say with these scams is, don’t do it, just don’t so it. Call here, call somebody,” he said. “Senior citizens, call your children. Talk to somebody before you get involved in any of these issues. Whether it’s, they’re going to shut your power off, or whether you just won the lottery or an inheritance from a long-lost relative.

“I know with the economic times what they are, people think well, maybe it’s my lucky day, but it’s not, it’s just not. I tell people if they call you, hang up. If you get something in the mail, rip it up and throw it away. Believe me if you really have won a lottery, or one of your long-lost relatives has died and you have an inheritance, they will find you.”

The state’s Public Service Commission has strict provisions for power companies when it comes to dealing with their customers.

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