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Contractor gets hundreds of angry calls after his number was used in RG&E scam

Berkeley Brean
Updated: May 05, 2020 11:15 PM
Created: May 05, 2020 08:33 PM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — It takes a unique level of depravity to take advantage of people's fears right now but that's what we're seeing with a scam targeting RG&E and National Grid customers. 

This one has a twist, however, that News10NBC is uncovering.

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Brean: "How many phone calls do you think you received?"

Mark Ellenwood, Ellenwood Electric: "I would say in excess of 300."

This is an old school scam with a new kind of victim. The bad guys are calling RG&E and National Grid customers and telling them their power is going to be shut off in 30 minutes if they don't pay their bill immediately. Hundreds of those customers are calling the number that came up on their phone and it's going right to Mark Ellenwood's business phone. 

Brean: "Who's calling you? The would-be victims?"

Ellenwood: "They appear to be people who have been, that are hitting the caller ID after being contacted by the scam that is using my phone number."

Between 5:10 and 6:15 Monday evening, Ellenwood got 100 calls. 

Ellenwood: "If my business was that busy I'd be a happy man."

But it's not and he's afraid people are going to think he's somehow involved and that will impact his electrical contracting business which he started 40 years ago. 

Ellenwood retrieved four voicemails. One person called from Brooklyn. Another was local just giving a heads up. But one message highlights the concerns he has as a business owner. 

"I would appreciate it if you would stop calling my blessed phone," the caller said. 

Ellenwood: "I'm concerned they're upset at me thinking I'm the one perpetrating this scam."

Brean: "And then the consequence is this could have a negative impact on your business."

Ellenwood: "I'm afraid that it might and especially in this environment when I'm going to start ramping things up, this is the last thing I need."

RG&E and National Grid say they're aware of the scam. 

Here are the main points they shared with us:

RG&E

  • If a customer receives a call threatening to cut service unless an immediate payment is made over the phone, this is a sure sign of a scam. 
  • NYSEG and RG&E will never demand customers to purchase debit cards such as Green Dot cards to make payments. The companies accept a variety of payment methods, and Customer Care representatives will work with individual customers to help them pay down outstanding balances and maintain service. 
  • Please note that NYSEG and RG&E have temporarily suspended disconnections related to non-payment during the COVID-19 situation. 
  • If unsure of the identity of the caller, ask for the last five digits of the account. If they do not have this information, hang up and alert local authorities. Never give out personal or account information to a caller.
  • Any customer who is uncertain whether a call is genuine should hang up and call the number listed on their bill. 

National Grid

  • 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 the caller 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 pre-paid card service.  
  • Never — under any circumstances — offer personal or financial information to someone who you cannot identify. 

How did the bad guys get Ellenwood's business number? There is no real way to know. But a computer friend of his thinks they might have done another scam called "spear phishing," targeting Ellenwood's business because it has the word electric in it. After all, they're trying to scam people over their electric bills.


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