Last evening I was sitting in my kitchen and the phone rang. Absorbed in a project, I let the phone call go to voicemail. After completing what I was working on, I pressed the button on the phone and listened to the message.

It was a lady’s voice, very professional, sounded “real”. She was informing me that her name was Joyce; she is a Customer Service Representative from Orange and Rockland Utilities and she was calling because records show that I am behind on my account, and for my convenience she would be happy to take the payment information over the phone. Since she missed me she would try again later.

I looked at the I.D. on the phone and indeed it said “O & R”.

But then I remembered, my account is fine. As a matter of fact, Orange & Rockland owes "me" a credit because I overpaid last quarter.

Confused, I called them.

The representative from the utility company stated that no call was placed by them to my residence. Furthermore, Orange & Rockland DOES NOT seek payments over the telephone for delinquent accounts. 

Doing a little research, I found out that, this is an ongoing scam that seems to pop up every year.

  • In May of 2013, customers in Bergen County were particularly targeted.  According to an article in nj.com,” In each case, the caller — or sometimes a recording — informs the customer that their service will be disconnected if payment is not made with a prepaid debit card. The caller also suggests they purchase a Green Dot MoneyPak or InstaPay MoneyPak at an area convenience store, and use that to pay the balance. After they receive the card numbers, the scammers then transfer the money to a separate prepaid card, and take it to an ATM, which dispenses them cash.I
  • In April 2014, The Rockland County Times reported that the same scam was making the rounds in the lower Hudson Valley.

I Googled, “Orange & Rockland Scam” and had dozens of hits where this scam seems to be a constant. With the holiday season here, and people pressed for money and time, it seems to be the perfect opportunity for stressed out consumers, to surrender their credit card information.

Talking with friends, it seems that many people received the same solicitation. One or two were even shocked, because they realized that they did indeed supply their information over the phone.

Below I am listing a link to the FTC, the FCC and other consumer websites that can give you some tip on what to listen for to see if a phone call is authentic or a scam:

https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0076-phone-scams

http://www.consumerfraudreporting.org/current_top_10_scam_list.php

https://www.fcc.gov/consumers/guides/one-ring-wireless-phone-scam

Designers have also created mobile phone apps that can help identity fraudulent numbers with Caller Id, Call Blocker and Reverse Look Up features

*Hiya: *Mr. Number and *WhoAreYou are just some of the apps that are available.

O&R urges anyone who receives this type of call to contact customer service at 1-877-434-4100. Customers are advised to hang up the phone if they suspect the person calling them is not a legitimate employee. They can get confirmation of actual employees by calling O&R at 1-877-434-4100. O&R employees are trained to cooperate with this request and prepared to comply with an identity verification request.