National Grid phone scam targeting businesses

Posted at 5:51 AM, Jul 19, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-19 07:42:46-04

An old National Grid phone scam is resurfacing and targeting business owners. 

Here's how it works: a caller claims to be a National Grid representative, tells you that you owe thousands of dollars in unpaid bills, you need to pay within the hour or else your power is shut off. The caller accepts your credit card number or prepaid cards or another payment method of your choosing.

The convincing part: if you call the scam phone number back, there's an automated menu that mimics the one of the actual National Grid. The scammer will ask greet you as an employee, ask for your account number or any other information to convince you they're the actual company.

The Schott family owns a Subway sandwich restaurant in Amherst, at Main and Eggert. They received one of these calls. John Schott, the owner, answered the call and knew something was wrong when the caller claimed he owed $1200 for months of unpaid bills. The red flag? Schott has only owned the location for two months.

"It brought on a little bit of anxiety because you definitely don't want your electricity turned off, especially when you know everything is paid up to date. So I knew it wasn't true, but then you have that questionable doubt," says John. He says the scammers were pretty convincing and that in the moment, it was easy to panic.

Schott's wife called National Grid to make sure their bills were up to date before Schott's daughter, Lindsay called the scammers. She was met with an automated system and a scammer who was hung up on her when she asked to speak to a supervisor.

The Schotts took red flags under consideration and didn't fall for the scam, saving their hard-earned money.  

"We know how stressful it is to be a business owner to begin with and to have these people trying to take your money? It just isn't right," says Lindsay Schott. She says you should just take a minute and do your research before you reach for your wallet.

Lindsay called the scammers once more, only to find out the automated message had changed, now mimicking the menu of a power company based on Kansas.

National Grid offers these tips to spot a scam:

• 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.

• Protect yourself. Ask the caller to provide the last five digits of your National Grid account number. If the caller doesn’t know your account number and fishes for help, take charge and hang up immediately.

• Do not take the bait. Scammers will not have access to your account information, and you should never offer that information if asked.  National Grid representatives will know your account number.

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

• Do not fall for scare tactics and threats. National Grid will not contact customers demanding immediate payment by wire transfer, Green Dot Money-Pak or any other prepaid card service.

• Do not cave to pressure. Never -- under any circumstances -- offer personal or financial information to someone who you cannot identify.