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‘It’s really easy to be fooled’: AG sees uptick in customers targeted by National Grid scheme

Consumer Investigations

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Dozens of National Grid customers have been targeted by a recent scheme that claims they haven’t paid their bill, according to Attorney General Peter Neronha.

Neronha said it’s unclear how many customers have fallen victim, but as of Tuesday, the Consumer Protection Unit has received more than 75 complaints.

He said compared to the roughly 15 complaints issued last December, that’s a big uptick.

The scheme revolves around a robocall customers suddenly receive from what appears to be National Grid: “Welcome to National Grid. This is an automated call to inform you that your account reflects a disconnection taking place today due to nonpayment history.”

But Ted Kresse, a spokesperson for the utility, said that’s not how National Grid operates.

“We communicate with our customers multiple times before we have to get to a disconnection,” Kresse said.

Kresse also said National Grid isn’t disconnecting residential customers right now, and hasn’t been since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.

“We understand many folks have never been in a position where they’re challenged to pay their utility bill right now, so we want to help them,” Kresse said.

If you answer the phone, Neronha said there are two red flags you should be on the lookout for:

  • The caller asks for your account information.
  • The caller requests a payment in the form of a MoneyPak, which is a type of gift card.

“When they’re asking for that kind of information, or asking you to pay in that way, you know it’s a scam,” Neronha said.

Kresse said actual National Grid customer service representatives will verify the last five digits of your account information with you.

Neronha said if you receive a voicemail similar to the robocall, you should not call the number back and instead call the number on your utility bill.

“I can’t say how convincing they are when you call that number back … but there’s even background noise that makes it sound like you’re calling into a call center. So it’s really easy to be fooled,” Neronha said.

He also urged customers to reach out to the Consumer Protection Unit for help if they believe they’ve fallen victim to the scam.

“Don’t be embarrassed to the point where you don’t reach out for help,” Neronha said. “[The Consumer Protection Unit] can walk you through how to take steps to kind of make sure the fallout isn’t as bad as it otherwise might be.”

If you’re certain you’ve paid your bill, Kresse urges customers to ignore the call, but if you want to make sure the payment is being processed, you can always contact National Grid at 1-800-322-3223.

He also said anyone who can’t pay their bill because of the pandemic can consider the utility’s Forgiveness Program, which helps get customers back on track.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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