Phone scam in the Southern Tier

09.13.16 | Bob Price

Vestal police have received 3 complaints this week from people who say they have been targeted by people falsely claiming to be NYSEG and threatening to shut off their power if they don't pay immediately.

Authorities say the scammers are telling people to buy Green Dot money cards to pay their electric bill. This method of payment is not accepted by NYSEG.

"In particular they are asking them to go out and buy pre-paid money cards and then call the person back and give them the numbers to those cards," Lieutenant Christopher Streno, of the Vestal Police Department, said.

Streno notes all three of the people targeted were business owners, and the two who fell for the scam were robbed of over $5,000. Th business owner who did not fall for the scam called the police to report it.

"One of the reasons business owners are targeted is because the normal home owner is not going to have a large outstanding electric bill," Streno said. "These people are being told that they owe thousands of dollars."

According to Lieutenant Streno, the people who do these kind of scams try to get people scared, so they will act quickly.

"They're going to use your emotions to victimize you, so people have to take a deep breath and relax and think, 'You know, I normally pay my electric bill,'" Streno said. "This is not the way NYSEG does business, this is not the way legitimate people do business."

The scammer's identites or identities are not currently known.

Lieutenant Strano adds it is hard to determine where calls are coming from, because scammers can either manipulate phone numbers or use throwaway phones.

The Broome County Sheriff's Office has also been contacted about he scam, although none of the callers fell for the hoax.

Action News spoke with NYSEG Spokesperson John Carroll, who recommends customers to check the status of their account by calling the number on their bill, and to call local authorities if they think they are being scammed.