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As the weather gets colder scams targeting utility customers may increase as consumers balance the costs of heating their homes with the need for warmth.

Some scammers pretend to represent a major energy provider and claim that they will cut your electrical power, assess a fine, or even jail you unless they receive an immediate payment. Utility providers such as Eversource and National Grid have warned about such scams on their websites. This scam affects businesses as well as residential consumers.  Scammers will often target restaurants on nights when they are apt to be busy, threatening to shut off the power all weekend if payment is not made that day.

What are the signs of a utility scam?

  • The callers cannot provide simple information about your account, such as the name on the account, the address of the account, or even your account number.
  • Utility companies (and most legitimate organizations) do not demand payment using a reloadable debit card or other non-traceable form of payment. If the caller is demanding payment in that form, hang up.
  • The caller is angry or threatening. A representative from your utility company will not call you and be verbally offensive or use threatening language.
  • There are strict regulations governing the shut off of utilities and the legal process includes several notices being sent to you, the customer, first. If you are hearing for the first time about a payment being due that day from you to the energy provider, it is likely a scam.
  • If the scammer comes to your home to collect payment, ask for an official ID and don’t let them in! Utility company employees carry their IDs and will gladly present it if asked. If you’re still unsure, contact your utility company and ask if they sent representatives to your home.

If you think that you’ve been the victim of a utility scam, or feel threatened during contact with one of these scammers, contact your local police department, file a complaint with your utility company, our Office, the Department of Public Utilities, the  Attorney General’s office, and the Federal Trade Commission.

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 all Massachusetts businesses. The Office also oversees the state’s Lemon Laws, data breach reporting, Home Improvement Contractor Program and the state’s Do Not Call Registry.

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