Editorial: Beware the scam artists of August

Last week, a woman posted a entry on the Originally From Dorchester page on Facebook that warned of an alleged utility scam targeting her mother, an elderly person living in Dorchester. The post did not offer specific details about where this happened— and due to privacy concerns expressed by the victim’s family— the OFD administrators removed the post. It alleged that two men who claimed to be from Eversource were demanding payment from her mother, who wisely refused to comply and instead called police.

These sorts of attempts at collecting money from unsuspecting homeowners and tenants have become a scourge in city neighborhoods.
Eversource is very clear about the fact that it does NOT send employees or other representatives to people’s doors seeking payment for bills. Full disclosure: My wife, Linda Dorcena Forry, is a member of the Eversource board of trustees.

The company is acutely aware of this sort of nefarious activity being carried out in its name. A company spokesman told us they receive complaints from customers who “continue to receive calls from individuals claiming to be affiliated with the company threatening to shut off their power unless immediate payment is made by a prepaid debit card.”

The Eversource response boils down to: “Don’t do it! It’s a scam.”

“Scammers can be relentless and often sound legitimate and convincing, but they’re only successful if they catch our customers off guard and coerce them into making a payment,” said Penni Conner, senior vice president and chief customer officer at Eversource, told us. “If anyone suspects someone is impersonating an Eversource representative, whether on the phone or in-person, they should contact us immediately and report it to local police. We always remind our customers that the key to stopping these scammers in their tracks is - don’t panic and don’t pay.”

“Customers are urged to always decline any door-to-door offers or requests to discuss energy rates from someone claiming to be an Eversource employee,” Conner added.

You should never provide a copy of your utility bill or account information to any unsolicited person on the phone, at the door, or online; if you don’t feel comfortable, close the door or hang up the phone. Call Eversource directly at 1-800-592-2000 and report the activity. The company tracks the complaints and reports them to state regulators.

These sorts of scams are not just impacting utility customers. This week, the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department issued a warning about an ongoing telephone scam involving people falsely claiming to work for the Department’s Civil Process Division. The scammers try to get people to pay a fine — sometimes claiming that they failed to report for jury duty. In some instances, the scam artists have threatened to come to people’s home unless they purchase a prepaid credit or gift card.

“We want to warn citizens that these are most definitely scams and urge them to take the proper precautions against this individual or individuals,” said Suffolk County Sheriff Steven W. Tompkins. “We do not make these types of calls nor do we ever demand money over the phone as a way to avoid arrest, and our office would have already had contact with the recipients by way of process service well before they would ever be subject to a civil arrest.”

If you encounter anyone trying to fool you or a family member in such a manner, Tompkins asks that you call his office at 617-704-6544.

- Bill Forry