With the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, scam artists are back at it trying to con Rhode Island businesses out of hundreds of dollars under the false pretense of an overdue National Grid payment. In recent days, the Office of Attorney General has been contacted by at least two small business owners who were scammed out of hundreds of dollars.
The scam typically works like this: A person claiming to be from National Grid contacts a small business indicating the electricity will be shut off immediately for past due amounts. To avoid shut off, the business owner is instructed to purchase a pre-paid debit card, commonly referred to as a "Green Dot" card, call back a given phone number and provide the account information over the telephone. The return telephone number is designed to look like a legitimate phone number associated with National Grid.
In the most recent spate of calls, the illegitimate National Grid representative may have had information, such as the account number, last payment date and amount, and other details identifiable to the account, which leads the account holder to believe that call is legitimate.
"Scam artists are banking on business owners concentrating more on year-end sales and their own holiday plans to realize they are being conned," said Attorney General Kilmartin. "These scams are becoming increasingly more sophisticated in their approach to be given an air of legitimacy. It's a never-ending battle to keep up with this con."
Attorney General Kilmartin reminds all business owners and residents that National Grid may contact customers with past due balances by phone to offer payment options, BUT NEVER demands direct payment over the telephone, AND NEVER by a pre-paid debit card.
Customers who have received calls demanding immediate payment and are asked to wire money using a "Green Dot" card or for bank account information should contact National Grid immediately at National Grid's Customer Contact Center at 1-800-322-3223. In addition, consumers should report the scam with the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center ("IC3") at http://www.ic3.gov/default.aspx.