After receiving more than a dozen complaints from small business owners alerting the Office that they were targets of a billing scam with callers posing as representatives of National Grid, Attorney General Kilmartin is urging other businesses to be on high alert should they receive a phone call from a person purporting to be from the company.
Business owners have reported that the person calling seeks payment for a past due balance on their utility bill. In some instances, the caller offers to "lower" the amount owed if the customer agrees to make an immediate payment. The caller requests payment be made by a pre-paid debit-like card (available at retail locations) and provides a fraudulent phone number for the business owner to call back with the pre-paid card information. In some instances, the caller provides the location of nearby retail outlets that sell the pre-paid cards.
The phone number the scammers provide to customers is 855-842-4526, which is an automated system that mimics National Grid's iconic tagline "National Grid. Here with you. Here for you," followed by prompts to connect with an operator.
Attorney General Kilmartin confirmed with National grid that the phone number is not associated with the company. The scammer may be using several different phone numbers associated with the scam.
"These outfits are becoming more elaborate in their scam and savvier in finding new and convincing ways to trick consumers and small business owners into thinking they are dealing with an actual National Grid representative. It's important to report it to our office or National Grid if you receive one of these phone calls so we can alert other businesses and consumers before they fall victim," said Attorney General Kilmartin.
Timothy Horan, President and COO of National Grid Rhode Island said, "Protecting our customers from these types of scams is a major priority for National Grid and we're grateful to Attorney General Kilmartin for his vigilance. We want our customers to recognize suspicious activity, report it, and be confident in knowing when they are interacting with our customer service team."
National Grid offers the following tips to consumers to help spot a scam call:
• Customers should always contact National Grid using the toll-free telephone numbers listed on the billing statement. If you are provided a phone number that does not match the numbers on the billing statement, it is likely the call is a scam. • Be vigilant. If you believe you are current on your National Grid account, it is highly likely a call seeking payment is a scam. • Verify you are speaking with a National Grid representative. One way to do this is to ask the representative to confirm the last five digits of your National Grid account number, which they should always have. o If the caller doesn't know your account number and you have any doubt the caller is a National Grid representative, or if they have any questions about account balance and fish for help, take charge and hang up immediately. • National Grid may ask for a payment over the phone, but will leave the method of payment to the customer. • National Grid will not contact customers demanding immediate payment by wire transfer, Green Dot Money-Pak or any other pre-paid card service. • Never -- under any circumstances -- offer personal or financial information to someone who you cannot identify. • Every National Grid employee carries a photo ID card, and any contractor doing work for the company is also required to carry ID. If someone requesting entry into your home or place of business does not show an ID card, don't let that person in and please call National Grid or your local law enforcement.
Customers who have received calls demanding immediate payment and are asked to make a payment using an iTunes card, pre-paid debit card, or asked for bank account information should contact National Grid immediately at National Grid's Customer Contact Center at 1-800-322-3223.
To report the scam to the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Unit, please call 401-274-4400 or email email@example.com.