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Many staff from our Office have been receiving incessant phone calls regarding their energy bills. Luckily, we know a scam when we hear one.

We called the scammer back after receiving 3 calls, each listing a different call back number along with different reference numbers. The scammer claimed to offer lower cost electric rates for two of the larger utility companies in Massachusetts, Eversource and National Grid. They asked which of the two our utility provider was and what our account number was. We provided an entirely made up account number (which conveniently the scammer was able to locate). They then asked for the address where we receive our residential service. We gave them our business address (an Office building in Boston). The scammer then said he was going to conference in someone from the billing side of the business and that we were to answer “Yes” to every question. That’s when we disconnected the call.

These scam calls can be confusing because many times they stem from something real. Massachusetts residents have choice in who provides their electric supply and the Department of Public Utilities has information on their website where consumers can learn about competitive energy suppliers and choose an alternative to their service. But in this instance, when the account number and account information we provided were false, the competitive supplier shouldn’t have been able to locate our account, let alone change our supplier.

Utility scams target both businesses and homeowners and consumers. In other variations of a utility scam, the scammer threatens immediate shut-off of the utility unless payment is made. Often, they demand a payment, typically a prepaid debit card from a store. Utility companies will never demand a specific kind of payment.

If you ever receive these calls, you should:

  • Be cautious. Utility companies will seldom call you or visit your home without you first initiating the call or visit.
  • Get your most recent utility bill and ask the caller to recite your account number. If they cannot, that’s a sign they’re a scammer.
  • Ask for identification. Utility employees will ALWAYS carry identification. Don’t let anyone in your home who cannot provide proof of who they say they are.
  • Remember shut-off rights. Utility companies must follow strict rules and processes before turning off your service. A call or unexpected visit will never be the first time you’re learning that you owe money.

For more information on a particular utility company, visit their website. Most have information about scams and what type of information a legit employee would request from you.

If you have additional questions, contact the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation by calling our Consumer Hotline at (617) 973-8787, or toll-free in MA at (888) 283-3757, Monday through Friday, from 9 am-4:30 pm. Follow the Office on Facebook and Twitter, @Mass_Consumer. The Baker-Polito Administration’s Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation along with its five agencies work together to achieve two goals: to protect and empower consumers through advocacy and education, and to ensure a fair playing field for Massachusetts businesses. The Office also oversees the state’s Lemon Laws and Arbitration Program, Data Breach reporting, Home Improvement Contractor Programs and the MA Do Not Call Registry.

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