WESTERLY — Police and town officials have issued a warning to customers of the Westerly Water Department: If you receive a call from someone claiming to be an employee and demanding immediate payment, hang up.
The Town of Westerly on Wednesday issued the warning on social media outlets after a caller contacted the water department and reported that someone had tried to scam him, saying his services would be shut off immediately if he did not make a payment over the phone.
Westerly Police Chief Shawn Lacey urged residents to be on alert.
"Right now, no one has come forward and we are hoping that no one has fallen victim," he said. "It's the same type of scam we usually see, but changes in technology have allowed these scammers to advance their efforts."
The concern with the latest scam, Lacey explained, is that the perpetrators are using a tactic called "spoofing" that imitates local phone numbers. The technique allows the caller to create a Westerly-based number regardless of where they might be calling from.
"Don't let the caller ID fool you," the town said in a Facebook post.
The police and the water department's staff said the utility would never request an immediate phone payment and would not reach out to customers by phone regarding unpaid bills. The department conducts all business by mail, Lacey said, with any request for payment referring to the facility on White Rock Road or a specific processing center in the Providence area.
Whether related to water or electric service or any other utility, "calls demanding immediate, large payments to avoid service shutoff, especially in the form of a prepaid card, often signal a scam," Lacey said.
The alert this week recommended that residents avoid paying any bill or providing personal or financial information over the phone.
Customers concerned that they may have been scammed should contact the water department or the police immediately, officials said. The water department's number is 401-348-2559.