How to foil newest scam targeting Long Island homeowners

LONG ISLAND, New York (WABC) -- There is a warning for homeowners on Long Island as scams targeting utility customers are on the rise.

PSEG Long Island says last year more than 4,000 customers were scammed, an increase of 75 percent from the year before.

"I receive this call that within 30 minutes my electricity is going to be cut off," Michael Abrahams said.

He jumped when he thought the lights would go out on his new business.

"I'm thinking of the best way to keep them on," Abrahams said.

So he gave $400 to a cunning con man, posing as a PSEG Long Island rep.

"They instructed me to go to my local Walgreens or CVS, take out what's called a Money Pak card," Abrahams said. "That's the only to way to process this card immediately."

Abrahams warned the number he was told to call had the same voice, same hold music, exact same instructions heard when calling the real PSEG Long Island customer service.

"They (the caller) knew my address. They knew everything,"Abrahams said. "They scared me."

He purchased the Money Pak card and gave them the code on the back. But the very next day, the scammers tried to get even more money.

"I received a second call the first payment didn't go through and now I need to make a double payment and pay in full," Abrahams said.

But this time he wasn't about to be fooled twice.

"No that's when I started to realize something was wrong," Abrahams said.

The big takeaway is if you get a call from any company pressuring you for payment -- your first move should be to hang up. Then call them back using the customer service number printed on your bill. That's the safe way to check if you owe a balance.

Be wary of emails that appear to be from the utility. They could ask you to click on attachments which could expose you to malware or ask you for personal information, leading to identity theft.

And finally, perhaps the biggest tip off to a rip off, if you ever get a request to pay by using money or iTunes cards, Bitcoin or Western Union -- don't do it. It's ALWAYS a scam.

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