Utilties, Cops Warn of Distraction Burglaries, Collections Scams


Burglars posing as utility workers are just one way crooks are targeting victims lately—thieves have also been running similar scams via phone and email on Long Island, according to investigators.

Authorities have issued several alerts in the past few weeks warning the public not to fall for such schemes. Nassau County police released composite sketches of two suspects wanted for posing as National Grid employees during three burglaries in the past week. And PSEG Long Island warned customers Thursday that scammers are calling and emailing victims while posing as the utility’s collections agents.

“We are getting at least two of these scams reported to us a week,” Glen Cove city police Lt. John Nagle said earlier this month, referring to the phone scam. “Sometimes victims are being scammed out of thousands of dollars.”

Nassau police said two men posing as a National Grid crew distracted their victims—detectives believe the burglars targeted senior citizens—at a house in Syosset on June 19 and two homes two hours apart in Herricks and Westbury the follow day. The duo made off with jewelry. In one case, they falsely claimed to be investigating a gas explosion.

The cases are just the latest in which burglars pose as workers to distract seniors while an accomplice ransacks victims’ homes. Women claiming to be landscapers similarly burglarized a string of homes two years ago. And a man pretending to work for Cablevision knocked down a 74-year-old woman during a Uniondale home invasion this spring.

In the phone and email scams, callers and emailers claim to be utility collections representatives threatening to turn off electric service if payment is not made to them that day via a Green Dot MoneyPak, according to PSEG officials, who said such schemes are “plaguing” utilities nationwide. The utility noted that their employees don’t use such payment methods, wear photo ID and will only ask to speak to the Customer of Record.

Suffolk County police said this month that they’ve received reports of scammers posing as IRS collections agents threatening victims’ with arrest if they don’t pay outstanding tax debt to the federal agency. Such schemers often pose as prize winners, kidnappers seeking ransom or law enforcement officers urging victims to bail out incarcerated relatives.

Government agencies and companies never ask for payments via Green Dot MoneyPak, Money Gram, Western Union or other prepaid card/money order companies, Nassau police noted in an alert they issued last month.

In the latest Nassau burglaries, police described both suspects as being white men in their 30s. The first has a medium-to-heavy build, weighs about 180 pounds, is about 5-feet, 3-inches tall with short, dark hair. The second spoke with a lisp or stutter, had a blue tattoo on his right forearm, is about 5-feet, 8-inches tall and was wearing a yellow construction hat and vest.

Third Squad detectives ask anyone with information regarding this crime to call Nassau County Crime Stoppers at 1-800-244-TIPS.  All callers will remain anonymous.

Any customer who has doubts about the legitimacy of a call or someone trying to get inside their home that is representing PSEG Long Island, especially one in which payment is requested, should call the utility directly at 1-800-490-0025 or visit a local PSEG Long Island Customer Service Center. For the latest information about the scam, visit www.psegliny.com/scam.

Suffolk police has a list of current local scams on their website, Nassau police issued this advisory on how seniors can avoid being scammed and the FBI has a comprehensive list of fraud to watch for on their website.