News10NBC Investigates: RG&E’s toll free TTY number goes to scammers

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. – Many of you with billing issues have struggled to get through to RG&E over the last several months. You’re willing to try any phone number the utility gives out to reach customer service, but there is one number printed on your bill that you need to avoid. 

Jamie Peskor recently had a billing issue with RG&E.

“It was more than double what we normally pay,” Peskor tells News10NBC. 

So, she did what any of us would do. She called the customer service number printed on her bill.

“I couldn’t get through to a real person. I could not get past the robotic automated voice no matter what I tried,” she recalls.

Frustrated, the family just started going down the list of other toll free numbers that RG&E provides on its bills. When they got to the 800 number listed for those with hearing and speech impairment, a real person actually answered. 

“They said, ‘what’s your RG&E account number’,” Peskor recalls. “So, when they asked for that we were like, okay this has got to be the right.” 

The person on the other end of the line proceeded to tell the Peskors that the billing issue would be corrected and for the inconvenience, they were going to get a $100 refund.

“They said it was going to be a direct deposit right into our account,” she says.

So, the Preskor’s provided their bank account information.

“They said, if you have any questions, here’s your confirmation number, I still have it,” says Peskor.

But within a few days, fraudulent charges started popping up.

“We had to cancel our entire checking account, open up a new one, make a claim with our bank for the fraud,” she adds. 

The family was so irritated, they went straight to RG&E’s in-person service center to explain what happened.

“I told her the whole story. I told you and I called the number right in front of her and she was mortified, oh my goodness and she went right to her supervisor at that moment,” Peskor says.

But this isn’t a one-off. The phone number is still printed on this month’s RG&E bills. News10NBC Investigative Reporter Jennifer Lewke called it herself.   

“Mike” – “Thank you for calling this is Mike, can I help you?”

Jennifer Lewke –  “Hi Mike, is this RG&E?” 

“Mike” – “Well, I can get you connected to RG&E, what happened? Is it about the outage or the bill?”

Jennifer Lewke – “Yea, I’m having some billing problems.”

“Mike” – “Okay, please state your first and last name.   Now, to connect you with RG&E, there is a wait-time of 5-8 minutes okay?”

Jennifer Lewke  – “Okay, thank you.” 

“Mike” – “There is a wait time so, in the meanwhile since you called in, just for calling in today you will be receiving $100 gift voucher Jennifer… you can use it at Walmart, Target and Kohl’s okay?”

Jennifer Lewke – “Just for calling in with a billing problem?”

“Mike” – “Yea, like we’re running the promotion for the customers calling in, you’ll be getting a $100 voucher this month. And Jennifer, now to send you this $100 voucher at your name and address you have to take care of the shipping and handling one time, it’s $5.95, manageable right?”

“Mike” hung-up when pressed further.

News10NBC Investigative Reporter Jennifer Lewke brough this issue straight to the top at RG&E. 

Brian Harrell/Vice President of Cyber Security at RG&E – “I think the rightful question at this point, is what are we doing about it so, we immediately launched an investigation, we’re currently undergoing an audit right now as we speak to remove all of the old and outdated phone numbers from all of our bills.”

Jennifer Lewke – “During your audit, have you found that any of your other numbers are inaccurate or outdated?”

Brian Harrell – “Thus far, we have not actually.”

Jennifer Lewke – “Do you have any idea how long that number has been inactive from RG&E’s standpoint?”

Brian Harrell – “Ya know, I don’t off hand but it takes events like this sometimes to bring it to our attention.  I wish it didn’t work out this way and we found it on our own.”

Jennifer Lewke – “Are you aware of any other customers who may have provided any information on that line, that were scammed?”

Brian Harrell – “Not at the moment, no.”

RG&E says it will have the number removed from all bill by next month and it encourages any customer with hearing or speech impairments to dial 711 for assistance. 

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