PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Crooks continue to target Rhode Islanders by phone and sometimes in person, pretending to be collecting on unpaid bills, in order to steal from them, said Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Neronha and National Grid Rhode Island President Terry Sobolewski on Wednesday.
Neronha’s office said there have been increased attempts in recent weeks targeting residential and business customers over the phone. An automated message may call would-be victims, telling them they have a past-due balance on their utility account and threatening to shut off power or gas within 30-40 minutes if they don’t pay up fast.
This type of scam is being reported across the country by utility customers, according to Neronha.
“Scammers know that more and more people are at home during this time and answering the phone,” he said in a statement. “The way to protect yourself is simple. Never give out personal or financial information over the phone, even if the caller tells you they are from a legitimate business — like National Grid.”
The key is to not be taken in by threats, and to call the official phone number for National Grid or your utility listed on your bill. If the would-be scammer tries to tell you to call a number that’s not on your bill, hang up and call the official customer service phone line, 1-800-322-3223, Sobolewski said.
“If you believe you are current on your National Grid account, it’s very likely a call seeking payment is not being truthful,” he added.
But if you know you need more time or other assistance paying the bill, call customer service or go to National Grid’s website dedicated to assistance.
Other tips they gave:
- Do not supply any of your account info to a suspect caller. If National Grid is contacting you, a legitimate employee can supply you with the last five digits of your account number. A caller who doesn’t know your number is not to be trusted.
- National Grid does take payment over the phone, but leaves the decision up to the caller of how to make payment. National Grid does not demand immediate payment through wire transfer, prepaid debit cards such as Green Dot Moneypak, or prepaid value cards for services like iTunes or Amazon.
- For door-to-door scams, a National Grid employee should show you official company identification.
- If you’re ever in any doubt, don’t let the person into your home and contact National Grid or your local law enforcement.
To report any scam to the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Unit, call (401) 274-4400 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.