Small Business Alert: Phone Scam Targets Business Owners

Analysis by the Boston Regional Intelligence Center (BRIC) has revealed, over the past several months, unknown person(s) have used a popular and persistent phone scam to steal upwards of $14,000 dollars from more than three dozen area businesses. On the whole, at least 50 incidents in this time period appear tied to this scam, 15 of them in Boston.

In all cases, an unknown actor calls the victim claiming to work for a utility company (usually N-Star or National Grid). The caller goes on to state that the victim is behind on his/her utility bills and risks having their power shut off immediately if they don’t pay. Victims are then instructed to purchase Green Dot prepaid cards (available at many area businesses) in the amount owed and then call back and relay the unique scratch-off number on the back of the card. The value of the card is then transferred online to an unknown third party account.

During at least two incidents in May, in Brookline and Quincy, the caller cited the Boston Marathon bombings while trying to convince business owners that their real utility payment had not been received and/or processed. In several incidents, the caller appears to know the exact amount due to N-Star/National Grid for the current billing cycle. Victims are often told that their payment either bounced or did not arrive, increasing the plausibility of this scam.

Both National Grid and  N-Star released advisories to their customers alerting them to the scam (N-Star/National Grid).
A majority of the businesses targeted involve the food industry  (Restaurant/Bar/Market)

The Boston Police Department encourages individuals who have further information regarding this incident or a similar incident to please contact the District detectives in their area or 911.

Community members wishing to assist this investigation anonymously can do so by calling the CrimeStoppers Tip Line at 1(800) 494-TIPS or texting the word ‘TIP’ to CRIME (27463). The Boston Police Department will stringently guard and protect the identities of those who wish to remain anonymous.