Experts anticipate rise in utility scams as winter approaches

Money

EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — As people start turning on their heat and spending more time indoors, experts believe there will be an increase in utility-related schemes in the coming weeks.

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) is teaming up with Eversource to warn customers about what to potentially expect.

“We’re encouraging people, if you’ve received an unsolicited phone call claiming to be specifically Eversource — which we have seen in previous years — to hang up and call Eversource directly,” said Paula Fleming, the BBB’s local chief marketing and sales officer.

Eversource spokesperson Chris McKinnon said to watch out for anything that doesn’t seem right.

“We will never demand payment over the phone, we won’t ask you to use pre-paid debit cards ever, we will also not ask any customer to meet us at any payment center,” McKinnon said, adding that if you do receive a phone call, you can verify it’s legitimate by asking questions about your account.

“What is the name on the account? What is the address of the account? What is the exact amount that is owed or overdue payment that is owed?” McKinnon said, giving examples.

Fleming said they’re trying to get ahead of potential scams, since there were a few dozen reported in New England last year.

“We did, unfortunately, see different variations of this scam,” Fleming recalled.

Sometimes, fraudsters use fear to try to obtain money or information, according to Fleming.

“We do not call you over the phone and threaten to disconnect service. It’s the last-resort thing that would ever happen to a customer,” McKinnon explained, saying Eversource communicates through the mail.

Right now, McKinnon said there’s a moratorium on utility disconnection in Massachusetts to help customers who are struggling to pay their bills. Anyone who finds themselves in a tight situation or behind on payments is encouraged to call Eversource at 800-592-2000.

“We will work with you one-on-one to figure out the best plan moving forward,” McKinnon said. “We have a variety of different programs, whether it be budget billing or a bill payment system program that you can get signed up for.”

Eversource’s website also features information on being more energy efficient which McKinnon said could help customers save money.

Copyright 2022 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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