Public should beware bill collection scams

Public should beware bill collection scams

With a recent increase in scams announced by the Rhode Island Attorney General’s Office and National Grid, the Rhode Island Police Chiefs’ Association is warning the public to be vigilant of scammers posing as bill collectors.

North Providence Police Chief Arthur Martins was highlighting the warning this week.

Customers have reported receiving a phone call with an automated message alleging to be from National Grid. The message informs the customer that they have a balance that is past due and demands payment. The message threatens that the customer’s service will be immediately shut off if payment is not received.

Scammers will often demand payment through non-traditional means, such as an electronic money order or a pre-paid debit card. This should be an immediate red flag, say the chiefs. No legitimate vendor will ever demand money via these means. Additionally, these scammers use a variety of methods to prey on their victims including phone calls, texts, email solicitation or in-person visits.

“With the recent uptick in utility bill scams, it is important to remain cognizant so that you and your loved ones do not get taken advantage of,” said Lincoln Police Chief and RIPCA President Brian Sullivan. “If you receive any suspicious calls, or believe that you are a victim of a scam, please do not hesitate to contact your local police department.”

To avoid falling victim to these types of scams, RIPCA recommends that residents follow tips outlined by National Grid and the Office of the Attorney General.

Phone Scams

Customers should always contact National Grid using the toll-free phone numbers listed on the billing statement. If they are provided a phone number that does not match the numbers on the billing statement, the call may very well be a scam.

If they believe they are current on their National Grid account, it is likely that a call seeking payment is not valid. They should hang up and call the customer service number listed on the billing statement, verifying that they are speaking with a National Grid representative by asking them to confirm the last five digits of their National Grid account number. National Grid representatives will know the account number; never offer that information to a caller.

If the caller doesn’t know the account number and someone has any doubt the caller is a National Grid representative, or if they have any questions about account balance and are fishing for information, they should take charge and hang up immediately. Call National Grid or the Office of the Attorney General.

National Grid may ask for a payment over the phone but will leave the method of payment up to the customer.

National Grid will not contact customers demanding immediate payment by wire transfer, pre-paid debit cards, iTunes cards, Green Dot Money-Pak or any other pre-paid card service.

Residents should never offer personal or financial information to someone they can’t identify.

Door-to-door scams

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 a home or place of business does not show an ID card, those at the address should not let that person in and should call National Grid or the local police department.

Customers who receive suspicious calls should contact National Grid’s customer contact Center at 1-800-322-3223. For more information, visit ngrid.com/scam .

To report a scam, call the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Unit at 401-274-4400 or email consumers@riag.ri.gov .