National Grid and Eversource are warning against a range of utility scams taking aim at customers through phone, online and personal contacts.
The companies, which serve Rhode Island and Connecticut, are taking part in Utilities United Against Scams, a consortium of more than 100 energy service providers.
"We always want to protect our customers from scams, and that’s why it’s critical we continue to raise awareness and educate the public about all the different tactics these scammers use," said Penni Conner, senior vice president and chief customer officer for Eversource. “If someone shows up at your home or calls you and demands immediate payment, do not give it to them. Call us right away at 1-800-286-2000 to verify any request for payment or personal information.”
The most common scams are bogus shut-off notices for unpaid bills. The scam is usually perpetrated by phone and involves a caller claiming to be an employee with Eversource and notifying customers that their service will be disconnected immediately if payments are not made.
"Both businesses and homeowners are targeted and, unfortunately, scammers are often successful," Eversource said. In many cases, the call will come up as Eversource on the caller ID even though there is no connection to the company.
A similar scam is occurring in Rhode Island, with several people in the Westerly area reporting that National Grid has appeared as the caller ID. In some cases, officials said, the scammers will persuade customers to provide personal information even though no payment is made, putting the customer at risk for identity theft.
According to the Better Business Bureau’s 2018 Scam Tracker Risk Report, the median loss for a utility scam victim is $500.
Both utilities said that shut-off notices and collections are not done via phone calls. Existing customers would receive a notice through the mail if there are issues that need to be addressed. The two companies also offer the following tips for customers:
•Representatives never demand instant payment in person or over the phone.
•Representatives do not require the use of prepaid debit cards (such as Green Dot MoneyPak, Vanilla or Reloadit).
• Representatives never request that customers meet at a payment center, such as a department or grocery store, to make a payment.
• The companies do not solicit door-to-door or on the phone on behalf of third-party energy suppliers.
• All employees carry photo identification, and field workers wear company logos on their clothing and drive company vehicles.