Local police and the Amesbury Chamber of Commerce are
warning business owners to be wary of a scam involving people claiming to be
with electricity provider National Grid and demanding money.
Since early July, at least two local businesses have been victimized while another business owner in Exeter, N.H., was able to avoid being ripped off, according to police and the Chamber's executive director, Melissa Lachance.
According to Amesbury police officer Thomas Hanshaw, the business owners said they received calls on July 8 from a person claiming to be from National Grid. The scammer would tell the business owner that they were delinquent in paying their bill and if they didn't take care of the debt immediately, National Grid would shut off their power.
In both cases, the scammer instructed the business owner to purchase a Money Pass card and then verbally tell him the access code information, allowing the scammer to seize the funds electronically. A Money Pass card allows customers to withdraw money from 23,000 ATM machines across the country without paying a surcharge.
Eventually, the victims called National Grid to make sure their debt was paid and were informed they were scammed, Hanshaw said.
Hanshaw said the most recent victim only found out Tuesday he had been scammed when he received his latest statement and saw no record of his "payment." Hanshaw declined to name the two victimized businesses.
Hanshaw said those who receive a phone call from someone claiming they are from National Grid should call police, which keeps a database of scams.
"We have reason to believe they are still active," Hanshaw said.
As a way of protecting all businesses in town, Lachance sent out an email blast yesterday warning business owners not to fall prey to the latest in a long series of scams. Lachance said her uncle, who owns a business in Exeter, N.H., was recently contacted by a National Grid scammer but after checking with his accountant realized he was being targeted.
"It's just upsetting to see people preying on other people during these tough times," Lachance said.
The National Grid scam has been pervasive across the nation since at least April. That's when National Grid released a statement stating that although company representatives do call those behind in their payments, they never demand immediate payment.
"Customers who have received calls demanding immediate payment through a pre-paid card or who may have been given fraudulent phone numbers for National Grid should make note of the company's published customer-service number," the company said in a statement.
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