HARRISON, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Utility customers in New Jersey are being targeted in a scam that threatens to turn off their gas and electric unless they pay big bucks, immediately.

Yesenia Sanchez of Harrison said her Spanish-speaking father got a call from someone who said he was from PSE&G and threatened to cut off gas and electric service.

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“They call about 1 p.m. … that we had to pay by 3 p.m. or service would be cut off,” she told CBS 2’s John Slattery.

Sanchez didn’t take the bait, but some PSE&G customers fell for it.

“And they’re primarily targeting the Hispanic community in northern New Jersey,” said Joe Forline, VP of PSE&G.

The customer is told to avoid having service cut off, he must purchase a prepaid debit card and call back.

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A number of convenience stores sell the card suggested, a Green Dot MoneyPak, and they’re told to put cash on the card.

“They’re asked to go down and get the Green Dot MoneyPak and on the card, number, and read the number over the phone, and money is transferred automatically. That’s what they’re told to do,” Forline said.

With the number from the card, the thief can then go to an ATM and cash out for the full value.

PSE&G said to avoid such a scam, any call from the utility would be properly identified on caller ID. Yet, if anyone calls about payment, to be safe, hang up and call the utility yourself.

The utility is working with police, and said that in the last month at least 120 of its customers were contacted by scammers over the phone, with around 20 falling victim.

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