National Grid warns of scam

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National Grid is warning customers that they have seen an increase in reported utility billing and payment scams across upstate New York.

According to National Grid officials, customers have reported emails and telephone calls claiming to be from National Grid, demanding immediate payment for past due balances on their utility bills. In some cases, the customer is promised savings on their next bill.

Though these scams are not new, the imposters have taken additional steps to convince customers they work for National Grid, officials said.

Customers contacted in the latest scam, report the caller will provide a name, office location from where they are calling, and an identification number. In many cases, the scammers use a practice called spoofing, where the caller ID and return number will have National Grid’s name and correct phone number.

Scammers threaten to terminate the customer’s service immediately unless payment is made, either by providing bank or credit card information, or by purchasing a prepaid debit card — such as a Green Dot card — and providing the scammer with the card’s account number. The scammers have also asked for Social Security numbers and a National Grid account numbers.

After obtaining the prepaid debit card, customers are directed to call a toll-free number, which replicates National Grid’s recorded messaging and automated operator to simulate an authentic communication with the company, officials warned.

The scenario may vary, but the scam’s goals remain the same: scare customers into making hasty decisions that include large financial payments and revealing sensitive personal information.  

National Grid officials said they do indeed contact customers with past due balances by phone to offer payment options, but they never demand a direct payment through the use of a prepaid debit card. National Grid said they never accept payment through such cards, and they will never threaten immediate disconnect.

Tips and advice to stay secure and avoid scams:

• Know your account balance and payment status. If you believe you are all paid up, then the call is more likely a scam.

• Verify you are speaking with a National Grid representative. 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 phishes for help, take charge and hang up immediately. Real National Grid representatives will know the information.

• Scammers will not have access to your account information, social security number or other personal details and you should never offer that information if asked.

• Scammers may also contact you by email and attempt to lure customers into clicking a link, visiting a malicious website.

Customers who believe they have fallen victim to the scam should contact local law enforcement officials immediately.

If you are provided a phone number that does not match numbers on the billing statements, it is likely that the call is a scam.

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