Police Spotlight: Scam targets businesses’ utility bills

The Boston Police Department is warning small business owners about an ongoing scam where a caller demands a utility bill payment via a Green Dot prepaid card. Utility companies never request payment by such cards.

The scam has hit at least 50 businesses–15 of them in Boston–over the past several months, and stolen more than $14,000, according to BPD.

The scam caller usually pretends to be from NStar or National Grid, and in several cases seems believable because they somehow found out the business’s current utility account balance. Victims are typically told that their utility payment did not arrive or that the check bounced, and in some cases, the scammer claims the Boston Marathon bombing had something to do with it. The caller then instructs the victim that the utility will be shut off immediately if the victim does not make a payment via a Green Dot card. The scammer then uses the card to transfer the money into an unknown account. Most of the businesses targeted are in the food industry, including restaurants, bars and markets.

A pattern to the cases was detected by analysis by the BPD’s Boston Regional Intelligence Center, which recently drew controversy for maintaining spy files on legal peace protests in Jamaica Plain and elsewhere.

Anyone who believes they are a victim of this scam or have any information about it can call 911 or contact detectives at JP’s District E-13 Police Station at 617-343-5630. Anonymous tips can be made by calling 1-800-494-8477 or by texting the word “TIP” to 27463.

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