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December 22, 2020 - 1:47pm
posted by Press Release in National Grid, scams, crime, news.

Press release:

With the holidays in full swing and the COVID-19 pandemic causing financial stress on many individuals, National Grid is alerting customers about recent reports of scams where imposters are promising refunds or discounts.

Here’s how scammers are trying to prey on customers:

  • Customers may notice their caller ID displays an incoming call is from a phone number in a nearby town or even the neighborhood where they live.

  • When customers answer the phone, a recorded message explains that due to being overbilled, they are owed refunds or discounts on their utility bills.

  • The customer is instructed to press "1" to learn more about the refund or discount.

  • The customer is transferred to a someone who explains that the customer is eligible for a refund or discount.

  • The customer is then asked for personal information, which may include their utility bill account number.

  • The scammer also may ask for the customer’s bank account number or other personal or financial information. Divulging this level of information can lead to identity theft or customers having their bank accounts accessed.

    Scammers have become increasingly sophisticated in replicating National Grid’s recorded messaging and directions for phone prompts, making it more difficult to differentiate an actual National Grid phone call from an imposter’s call. Similar scams have been reported across the United States by other utilities.

    Customers who have fallen victim to the scam should immediately contact National Grid by using the toll-free telephone numbers listed on their billing statements. The company wants to protect customers and offers the following warning signs to detect this recent scam:

  • Do not cave to pressure. Never – under any circumstances – offer personal or financial information to someone who you cannot identify.

  • Scammers will not have access to your account information, and you should never provide that information if you are asked.

  • National Grid representatives who call you will know your account number.

  • Verify that you are speaking with a National Grid representative. Ask the caller to provide the last five digits of your National Grid account number.

  • If the caller does not know your account number, hang up the phone.

To learn more about protecting yourself and your family from scams, visit ngrid.com/scam

October 15, 2020 - 3:34pm
posted by Press Release in news, scams, U.S. Marshals, crime.

Press release:

The U.S. Marshals are alerting the public of several imposter scams involving individuals claiming to be U.S. Marshals. In the past few weeks, there have been several reported scam calls to Rochester-area citizens. Law Enforcement is urging people to report the calls the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) and file a consumer complaint with the Federal Trade Commission, which has the ability to detect patterns of fraud from the information collected and share that data with law enforcement.

During these calls, scammers have attempted to gain banking information and credit card numbers. Telling the victims that their Social Security number has been used in a criminal act and this information is needed within an hour or they will be arrested.

On Wednesday, Oct. 14, a report was made to the U.S. Marshals office in Rochester. The victim reported that a caller told him there was a warrant for his arrest. The victim was told to transfer funds and if he did not comply, he was threatened with arrest and seizing of his property.

Additional incidents reported this month to Law Enforcement where Scam Calls attempted to collect a fine in lieu of arrest due to a claim of identity theft, failing to report for jury duty or other offenses, or even threating to seize property. Imposters tell victims they can avoid arrest by withdrawing cash and transferring it, purchasing a prepaid debit card such as a Green Dot card or gift card and reading the card number over the phone to satisfy the fine, or by depositing cash into bitcoin ATMs.

Scammers use many tactics to sound and appear credible. They sometimes provide information like badge numbers, names of actual law enforcement officials and federal judges, and courthouse addresses. They may also spoof their phone numbers to appear on caller IDs as if they are calling from a government agency or the court.

In March 2020, The Department of Justice launched the National Elder Fraud Hotline, which provides services to seniors who may be victims of financial fraud. Case managers assist callers with reporting the suspected fraud to relevant agencies and by providing resources and referrals to other appropriate services as needed.

The hotline’s toll free number is 833-FRAUD-11 (833-372-8311).

If you believe you were a victim of such a scam, you are encouraged to report the incident to the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) and to the FTC.

Things to remember:

  • U.S. MARSHALS WILL NEVER ask for credit/debit card/gift card numbers, wire transfers, or bank routing numbers, or to make bitcoin deposits for any purpose.

  • NEVER divulge personal or financial information to unknown callers.

  • Report scam phone calls to your local FBI office and to the FTC.

  • You can remain anonymous when you report.

  • Authenticate the call by calling the clerk of the court’s office of the U.S. District Court in your area and verify the court order given by the caller.

    -- Related article on SSN scams can be found at Inspector General Warns Public About SSA Impersonation Schemes or www.ssa.gov/scam
    -- More information on the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center can be found at www.ic3.gov

    Additional information about the U.S. Marshals Service can be found at http://www.usmarshals.gov

June 22, 2020 - 1:07pm
posted by Billie Owens in news, Steve Hawley, COVID-19, scams, NYSDOL, FBI branch in Buffalo, Fraud.

Press release:

Assemblyman Steve Hawley is aware of the recent string of fraud cases that have developed in the wake of an overwhelmed New York State Department of Labor (NYSDOL) doing what it can to assist as many people as possible during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has caused a significant number of people to lose their jobs.

The scam stems from evidence that individuals throughout Western New York have received letters concerning unemployment benefits from the NYSDOL, despite never having sought unemployment claims at all. Hawley is urging everyone to remain vigilant and responsible during this time.

“I have my reservations when it comes to government agencies operating efficiently,” Hawley said. “I am coordinating with the NYSDOL to ensure those who need legitimate support receive it, and those who are falling victim to these identity thieves know what steps to take to set things right.”

NYSDOL is still developing a comprehensive set of instructions that it will make public for those wondering what steps to take should they receive such a letter. Until that time, Hawley is encouraging all citizens to stay vigilant, monitor their mail, and should they notice anything suspicious coming from the NYSDOL in the mail (particularly when they have not claimed unemployment), they should report it to the Fraud Department by calling toll-free at (888) 598-2077, or visiting this website.

Citizens are also encouraged to email the FBI branch in Buffalo if they have received a letter or related debit card contact at: [email protected] or call the number of the New York State Police Troop A Headquarters at (585) 344-6200.

May 6, 2020 - 11:27am
posted by Billie Owens in scams, Fraud, crime, news, National Grid, COVID-19.

Press release:

National Grid is warning Western New York customers to beware of a new phone scam where imposters are demanding immediate bill payment and threatening service disconnection.

This latest scam, which is targeting customers already facing hardships due to COVID-19, involves callers who pretend to be National Grid representatives.

They tell customers that unless payment is made within 30 minutes, their power will be shut off. The customer is then directed to call “the direct billing department to make a payment and avoid power disconnection.”

The scammers use sophisticated phone systems that display National Grid on the customer’s caller ID.

Additionally, the phone number customers are instructed to call closely resembles the company’s recorded messaging and phone prompt directions. These elements make it difficult to differentiate an actual National Grid call from an imposter’s call.

When in doubt, customers should hang up and call the National Grid customer service number on their bill.

National Grid reminds customers that on March 13, the company temporarily suspended collections-related activities, including service disconnections, to lessen any financial hardship brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The company continues to encourage customers struggling to pay their bills to take advantage of bill payment options or to call to speak with one of our Consumer Advocates.

Additional Tips to Protect Against Scams

National Grid urges customers to be cautious of scammers and offers the following tips:

  • National Grid representatives will know your account number; never offer that information to a caller.

  • Ask the caller to provide the last five digits of your National Grid account number. If thecaller doesn’t know your account number, asks questions about your account balance and associated details, or if you have any doubt the caller is a National Grid representative, please take charge and immediately hang up. Call National Grid or local law enforcement officials to report the incident.

  • National Grid will not contact customers demanding immediate payment by wire transfer, Green Dot Money-Pak or any other prepaid card service.

  • Never -- under any circumstances -- offer personal or financial information to someone who you cannot identify.

  • For more information on scams, click here.

August 16, 2014 - 12:09pm
posted by Billie Owens in scams, Steve Hawley, steve.

Press release:

Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R,C,I-Batavia) is warning his constituents of an emerging scam being perpetrated on customers of New York State Electric and Gas (NYSEG) and Rochester Gas and Electric (RG&E).

The scam involves a person claiming to be a NYSEG or RG&E representative calling customers and threatening them with service cancellation unless they buy a "Green Dot MoneyPak Card."

Once purchased, the scammer uses the card.

“Customers of NYSEG and RG&E need to be on guard for scammers soliciting the Green Dot MoneyPak Card. If you get one of these calls, do not buy the card and contact the Federal Trade Commission and your local police to let them know the issue,” Hawley said.

“If you have fallen victim to the scheme, you may be able to get your money back by contacting Green Dot MoneyPak and deactivating the card before the scammer uses it.”

Scam victims who want to get their money back can do so by going to https://www.moneypak.com/Help.aspx and clicking “I would like a refund of my MoneyPak.” However, this will not work if the scammer has already spent your money.

November 9, 2011 - 3:44pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in crime, scams.

Press release:

Genesee County Clerk Don M. Read is advising the public of two scams that have been spreading across the state and have recently surfaced here in mailboxes and on computers. The first involves a letter offering to provide a copy of your deed and related property information and the second is an email that suggests you have an unanswered motor vehicle ticket.

Property owners may receive by mail or email a solicitation offering to do the research and secure a certified copy of the deed to your real estate for a fee of $87. Several years ago this approach made its way through the state with a price tag of $50. Before that the offer was for $35. You can very easily obtain either a plain photocopy of your deed for $2 or a certified copy for approximately $5 from the Genesee County Clerk’s Office. The actual cost could vary by $2 to 3, depending upon the length of your deed. If you would like a copy of your deed, you can write, call or stop by the County Clerk’s Office. It only takes a few minutes to obtain a copy. 

The company offering the so-called service on the letter which a local resident brought to our office is Record Retrieval Services of Albany, New York. They offer to provide you with a copy of the deed and a “Property Profile” for $87 if you respond by a specified date. The information in the supposed “Property Profile” (Tax Map Number, purchase date, sale amount, etc.) is readily available online. To access the information call the County Real Property Tax Office @ 585-344-2550, ext. 2225, or visit the website for real property data @ www.oarsystem.com/ny/geneseecounty/ 

There is no charge for this information.

A second scam that has surfaced recently involves an email supposedly from the N.Y. State Department of Motor Vehicles or the New York State Police. Individuals will receive an email suggesting that they have an unpaid ticket for a motor vehicle violation, with the subject line indicating “Uniform Traffic Ticket.” Generally, the ticket is from a small community somewhere in New York State. In order to avoid suspension of your license you will need to open an attachment, enter a plea on a ticket form and return it to the town court that is identified.

Opening the attachment may very well expose your computer to a virus. The address of the town court is bogus and usually a post office box. Neither the Department of Motor Vehicles nor the New York State Police send out notifications of this sort by email. Your best course of action is to delete the email without even opening it, and certainly do not open the attachment. The State Police and DMV have requested that you not send the email to them.

September 15, 2010 - 12:41pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in crime, corfu, scams.


A Corfu couple is feeling burned and they want to warn other area residents not to fall for the same scam a traveling pavement company pulled on them.

The couple -- who asked not to be identified -- paid $7,500 to have an asphalt driveway installed, which was more than the original $3-per-square-foot quote the contractor gave when he arrived at their door saying he had some asphalt left over from a previous job.

While the two-day-old driveway looks beautiful and black right now, the couple has since learned it won't even last a year.

The husband first became suspicious when, after the job was done, the contractor insisted on getting a check immediately because he said he needed to pay for the asphalt. The man thought, "why does he need to pay for asphalt if it was extra?"

About that time, the wife called her parents and her father said he had read about asphalt driveway scams on the Internet.

That's when they decided to call police and contact local media. The couple claim the out-of-state contractor -- whom we're not identifying because the case remains under investigation -- is listed on a website that warns of just such scams. They say crew boss is wanted for the same alleged scam in other states. (We didn't find the same site, but search "driveway paving scams" in Google and you'll find thousands of articles on the topic.)

After the asphalt was down and the check was cashed, the homeowners had another local contractor look at the work. He said, according to the couple, that the workers who put down the asphalt didn't prepare the bed properly and the asphalt needs to be about three times thicker than it is.

We called Tim Hens, county highway superintendent, for his expert opinion and Hens said a well-installed asphalt driveway would have a sealing coat over a crushed rock bed and about three inches of asphalt laid.

The Corfu couple's driveway is an inch or less thick.

"It's not uncommon for contractors to have extra asphalt after a job," Hens said. "But I've never heard of them going around door-to-door trying to peddle it for another job. It's just not how it's done."

State Police Investigator Leo Hunter is looking into the Corfu case, but his investigation began only yesterday. He said it's not clear yet that a crime has been committed. If it's just a matter of alleged shoddy work, it could be a civil matter. However, if there are other local victims of the same firm, that could indicate deliberate fraud taking place.

The Los Angeles Times offers these seven signs that you're being scammed:

• Unsolicited offers to do painting, roofing or paving work
• Claims of leftover materials
• High-pressure or scare tactics
• Reluctance to sign a written contract
• Demand for payment in cash
• New vehicles and out-of-state license plates
• Toll-free telephone contact numbers instead of a local number

Or as Hens put it, "If it seems too good to be true, it probably is."

"You get what you pay for," he added.

As for the Corfu couple, they're feeling both angry and embarrassed.

"It's almost as if you're naive if you believe people these days," said the husband.

December 17, 2009 - 9:15pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in crime, scams, Sheriff's Office.

dontgetstung.jpgIf somebody calls you up and says you just won $1.2 million, it's not necessarily your lucky day.

A Corfu resident who recently received such a call on his mobile phone, did the smart thing and asked a few questions. The caller identified himself as Detective Brown and said that the lottery was "100 percent verified by the United States Government."

When the Corfu resident inquired about how Det. Brown obtained his mobile number, the caller mentioned something about paying bills online and buying goods "at a favorite grocery store."

The would-be victim figured out that the area code for Det. Brown was in Jamaica.

After getting off the phone, the complainant, who is on a "Do Not Call List," contacted Verizon Wireless and asked how this phony could have obtained his number. A Verizon operator said the company is aware of this particular scam, but did not explain, according to the Sheriff's Office, why the Corfu man's phone number was compromised.

Investigator Roger Stone warns residents to be especially aware during the Holiday Season of scammers and bunko artists. Many grifters will often try to obtain key personal and account information on the promise of sending large sums of money. Some flimflammers will ask "marks" for advance payment for insurance or shipping, etc., before claimed winnings or windfalls are transferred.

Would-be marks are encouraged to first, don't fall for the con, and second, report the incident to their local law-enforcement agency.

May 4, 2009 - 10:41pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in scams, Don Read.

County Clerk Don Read warns that companies are sending out mailers attempting to entice home owners into buying copies of their deeds at highly inflated prices.

While the price for a certified copy of a deed in Genesee County can run from $5 to $10, some companies are charging as much as $50 for the same document.

Here's Read's press release:

Genesee County Clerk Don Read advises property owners to beware of a spreading deed copy scam.  Property owners may receive a mail or e-mail solicitation offering to do the research and secure a certified copy of the deed to their real estate for a fee of $50 to $60.  One of the companies offering to do this is “New York Retrieval, Inc.” You can obtain that same certified copy from the County Clerk’s Office for $5 to $10 depending upon the length of the deed.  If you desire just a plain (uncertified copy) the fee will be between $2 and $5.  If you receive a solicitation such as this either notify the County Clerk or just discard it.  If you would like a copy of your deed, you can write, call or stop by the County Clerk’s Office.  It only takes a few minutes to obtain the copy. 

March 3, 2009 - 5:01pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime, scams.

Press release from Batavia Police:

The Batavia Police are advising Local residents to beware of a scam that starts with a letter and a personal check for up to $4,500, 

We get reports of one or two of these scam attempts a day. Some of the names on the letters are Shadow Shoppers, Secret Shopper or Shoppers Club. A “grand prize” might be offered to the recipient for participating. Nationally known retail stores names may be displayed on the letter without the consent of companies that are named.

The letter states, with improper grammar, “our company is a ‘SECRET SHOPPER’ employment firm that specializes in conducting research to assist corporations evaluates and improves the quality of customer service provided to their clients.”

The letter goes on to say that as one of the people selected to take part in the program “you will be representing our firm as Research Personnel or Customer Service Evaluator of selected merchant outlets and service providers in your area.”

This is a new spin on old check scams. So far, the majority of these scams have been from Nigeria and are rerouted through Canada and then to the U.S.
The problem is that people might think it’s a scam, but the amount of money the check is written for is so significant that even people who are suspicious are tempted.

The letter that accompanies the check seems legitimate, even to the point of breaking down how the money should be spent in the process of “secret shopping.”
The letter states, “Employee Probation Training Pay + Expenses, $360.94.” It goes on, again with improper grammar, “You’re tasks are as follows: Burger King - $20; Western Union Transfer - $2,165; Service Charge by Western Union - $149; Money Gram Transfer - $1,765; Service Charge by Money Gram - $75; Wal-Mart - $45.”

The scammer makes money because the would-be “secret shoppers” wire more than $3,000 through Western Union and Money Gram Transfer from their bank account with the belief that the checks will clear and cover it.

In fact, the checks are fraudulent, and when people deposit them and spend money in the prescribed manner, they are often out not only the amount of the check when it bounces, but also the amount that they spent of their own money.

By the time this check goes through the system, people have already taken the money out and sent off the fee by Western Union or Money Gram Transfer. The majority of the time they are out the check amount and any money that they withdrew from their account.

The best thing residents can do is to destroy the check. The Federal Trade Commission has a place on their web site to report these scams.  The best way to protect yourself is to be educated on this type of scam, and remember, “if it sounds too good to be true it probably is.”   

December 9, 2008 - 12:28pm
posted by Philip Anselmo in batavia, crime, Daily News, city council, police, sheriff, Albion, scams.

Joanne Beck covered last night's meeting of the Batavia City Council in a pair of articles in today's Daily News. Both stories—a parking ban on Oak Street and a discussion on changing the city's system for payment of trash collection—were featured on WBTA this morning. The Batavian referenced both articles in our morning news roundup.

Genesee County sheriff's deputies are looking into a string of complaints about a contractor not providing services that were paid for in advance. Lakeside Home Beautification, operated by Martin A. Miller, is based in Stafford. One homeowner, Jennifer Taberski, told Scott DeSmit that she paid Miller $3,800 to fix their roof in June. Nothing has yet been done, and her money was never returned, she claims. "He basically kidnapped my money," she said. Another homeowner was recently refunded their $1,750 after Miller allegedly failed to repair a roof.

DeSmit reports:

Miller, 48, served two one-year jail terms from a criminal case in Wyoming County.

He pleaded guilty in 2002 to four counts of petit larceny for scheming people out of more than $12,000.

Sheriff's deputies are encouraging anyone with information about Miller, or anyone looking to make a complaint, to contact them at (585) 343-5000.

In other news, Virginia Kropf put together a folksy piece on five Albion families who got together Monday for a reunion of their golden retrivers, all of which—unbeknownst to the owners—came from the same Valentine's Day litter. Interesting.

We encourage you to pick up a copy of the Daily News at your local newsstand. Or, better yet, subscribe at BataviaNews.com.

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