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Con Ed con man nets big bucks with crank calls

Joralemon Street resident Stephen Brown, 61, watches Con Edison workers toil away on Wednesday, when temps approached 100 degrees for the second day.
Community Newspaper Group / Gary Buiso

One or more thieves has been dialing up small business owners and tricking them into turning over big bundles of cash.

Shopkeepers have been getting calls from a man pretending to be a bill collector from Con Edison, who convinces them that they need to pay up right away before the energy giant kills the lights, cops said.

“It seems like they are just cold calling people and seeing who responds,” said Deputy Inspector Mark DiPaolo, commanding officer of Williamsburg’s 90th Precinct. “They are preying on small businesses.”

The precinct has handled at least three of these calls in January, while the 94th precinct in Greenpoint has taken at least one.

The caller uses the same modus operandi every time. After threatening to cut the juice if the business owner does not cough up the cash, he instructs the mark to go a store such as Walgreen’s to put funds on a prepaid money market card and then call back with the Personal Identification Number within a half hour. Once the crook has the digits, he can use the cash without being traced, police said.

At 12:15 pm on Jan. 21, the Con man struck the proprietor of a place on Montrose Avenue between Lorimer and Leonard streets, scaring up $429. An hour later, he swindled the manager of a store on Grand Street between Bedford and Driggs avenues, netting $1,259.10. And at noon on Jan. 25, a lady executive on Manhattan Avenue between Meserole and Norman avenues gave the guy $1004.95 on two cards.

Cops cautioned business owners to check out the identity of the voice on the other end of the line before marching over to the pharmacy with cash in hand.

“Get their number and call Con Ed to confirm that they called,” he said. “And if they ask you to pay by a card, it’s a scam.”

Reach reporter Danielle Furfaro at dfurfaro@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-2511. Follow her at twitter.com/DanielleFurfaro.

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