State Atty. Gen. Peter Kilmartin has scheduled a 1 p.m. press conference on Thursday to discuss the recent phone scams, which involve callers posing as National Grid employees.
National Grid Rhode Island President Timothy F. Horan is also expected to attend the media session to speak about the ongoing scams.
Officials from several local communities have been told that the caller claims that they represent National Grid and threaten immediate shutoff if a payment wasn't made for a past due bill. In one documented case in Barrington, the scammer also attempted to get bank account information in order to make a withdrawal.
One Newport resident already fell victim to the utility bill phone scam, losing $500 after giving private bank information over the phone.
A new twist becoming more common during these kinds of scams is the caller asking the recipient to purchase phone cards and call back with the card numbers to pay the bill over the phone.
Kilmartin noted in a press release that other scammers have asked people to buy "Green Dot" money cards to pay the balance.
National Grid has confirmed that it does not demand payments over the phone — when making collection calls, the utility offers payment options, but does not require immediate payment.
Here's how to avoid getting scammed:
• Remember you should never give out your account information to anyone over the phone or internet;
• Try to verify the caller’s identity as well as the company they represent;
• Screen your call if you have caller ID or an answering system. Blocked or private calls can be a red flag as well as number unknown to you. If you let the call go to voicemail and the call is important, they will leave a message you can return;
• Do not engage with the caller as they will be persistent and threatening. If you find you have answered on these calls, hang up the phone immediately;
• Never send money through a wire transfer or other means unless you are sending to a close friend or family member; and
• Do not feel pressured to give information or send money quickly.
If you feel you have received one of these scam calls, contact your local police department, or call National Grid at 1-800-322-3223 to verify your account information.
Have you received any calls from scammers claiming to represent National Grid? Share your experience in the comments below.
Note: This article was originally published at 11:38 a.m. and amended at 1:24 p.m. on Aug. 22.