SULLIVAN COUNTY, NY (November 17, 2014) – Sullivan County Sheriff Mike Schiff is warning residents and business owners in the Orange & Rockland Utilities (O&R) service area to be on alert for an ongoing scam that has made its way to Sullivan County.
The scam, which was first identified in an O&R press release in January, has been perpetrated primarily against businesses in Rockland and then Orange counties over the past several months.
Last week, the scammers struck in Wurtsboro.
This is how the scam works: The victim will receive a phone call from a person pretending to be an O&R Utilities account representative. The phony employee will tell the victim that their last payment was not received and that their electric will be shut off by the end of the day. The victim is told they can avoid the shut off if they make an immediate payment using a Green Dot MoneyPak Card which can be purchased at certain pharmacies or convenience stores.
The MoneyPak card is a type of prepaid credit card. The victim buys the card and then provides the card number to the scammers. The scammers apparently transfer the money off of the card and then withdraw the funds from an ATM machine, making them hard to catch.
Sheriff Mike Schiff says the scammer may not always be a live person. “In some instances, the victims have received an official sounding Robo-call,” said the Sheriff.
In some of the other cases the scammer has been fluent in both English and Spanish. “The scammer’s pitch is always high pressure”, said the Sheriff. “And the scammers love to target businesses on a Friday because an owner would believe that a potential disruption of electric service could last until Monday.”
Schiff says that his detectives are in the process of tracing the “800” number used by the crooks. “They are very brazen,” said the Sheriff. “Even after months of running this scam, the phone number is still active. When Detective Cyrus Barnes called the number on Friday, a male answered the phone and offered to help him with his payment,” said the Sheriff.
Schiff says his Office is working with O&R Utilities, the NYS Attorney General and Troopers from the Wurtsboro barracks on this case.
The O&R Utilities service area extends into the towns of Forestburgh, Lumberland, and Mamakating.
O&R customers in the following Sullivan County hamlets are potential targets of this scam: Rio, Glen Spey, Pond Eddy, Bloomingburg, Burlingham, Phillipsport, Summitville, Westbrookville and Wurtsboro.
Anyone receiving a phone call from O&R Utilities can always call O&R Customer Service direct at 1-877-434-4100 to verify.