Hadley police warn of utility phone scam

Published: 10/16/2017 9:30:39 AM

HADLEY — If you get a call from the Eversource energy company threatening a power shut-off, think twice.

Police are warning residents of a scam involving calls from people claiming to be from the utility.

A Hadley business owner recently received such a call and was told power would be shut off due to lack of payment unless a fee was paid, according to a post on the Hadley Police Department’s Facebook page last week. Police said the business owner hung up and called the energy company to verify the call.

“These types of phone scams are fairly common,” Sgt. Mitchell Kuc said. 

Eversource is well aware of the problem. The company has been using social media, bill inserts and its website to warn customers for years, according to Eversource spokesperson Priscilla Ress.

“This is tried-and-true scam with crooks calling our customers and demanding payment, at the same time threatening to shut off the power if they don’t get paid immediately,” Ress said.

She said the calls from scammers usually come at a time when a business is at its busiest and can least afford to lose power, or during extremely hot or cold weather when customers can least afford to have the electricity shut off.

Typically the scammer will tell customers to pay using a pre-paid debit card which Ress said cannot be traced. Once the customer’s money is sent, Ress said, the scammer can “take the cash and run.”

“We don’t demand instant pay-off, nor do we insist on payment with pre-paid debit cards,” Ress said.

At the Hadley Police Department, reports come in for a variety of scams. Kuc said the scams range from someone calling and saying they are representing a utility company to someone claiming to be a relative who is in jail and needs money for bail. The callers may request gift cards as a form of payment. That request should draw a red flag, Kuc said. “If there is any doubt ... call the company to make sure there are no issues,” Kuc said.

Some scams can be downright frightening. Kuc said a caller might warn the receiver against hanging up or calling the police, might even threaten the receiver’s family members.

Police said residents should verify any claim made on behalf of a company by calling that company directly, or by calling the Hadley Police Department at (413) 584-0883. For information from Eversource on how to protect yourself from scams, go to www.eversource.com/Content/wma/residential/safety/protect-you-your-family-from-scams

Caitlin Ashworth can be reached at cashworth@gazettenet.com.

Editor’s note: This story was updated at 12:30 on Oct. 16 to add comments from Eversource.

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