NEW YORK (WABC) -- Utility scams are costing victims $239 million a year and 7 On Your Side found they are getting more complex and harder to detect.
Donna Genova says she was tricked into buying $900 in gift cards and gave away the codes to scammers posing as an energy provider from Texas.
They conned her into thinking they were working with her own trusted utility, PSE&G.
She has the utility's number programmed in her phone contacts, complete with her account number for easy bill paying. It appeared as if the scammer was calling from the same number as customer service.
The caller claimed to be from the local power giant and said Genova had switched energy providers and transferred her to another man who demanded payment.
She said she was told if she wanted to cancel the new contract, she'd have to pay a $900 fee.
When she said she wasn't going to pay them, she says they threatened to shut down the utility and leave her with nothing.
Genova said that made her start to panic and she was told exactly what to do next.
"He was very specific and told me where to go to get these cards," she said. "So I ran."
By the time she was done running around, she had given out $900. When she realized the scam, Genova said a PSE&G rep said the company number is being emulated.
"I asked him how are your firewalls, how do they get in, I said because they have quite a bit of my information which is very scary to me, how did they even manage to get in," she said.
He told her it wasn't the firewalls, but the scammers emulate the number.
"They're just randomly going through numbers until they hit something," Genova said.
PSE&G regularly warns customers with the telltale signs of the scams.
First, scammers usually use a threat to disconnect your service. They'll call or even show up at your home.
The big takeaway is don't trust calls, even it says your utility name and number. If you get a suspicious call, simply hang up and call the number on your utility bill.
And remember, never pay with gift cards, bitcoin or app transfer -- once the money is gone, it's gone for good.
Click here to report fraud to the FTC.
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