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METHUEN (CBS) – Residents and business owners should be on alert as a new scam is robbing National Grid customers of hundreds of dollars.

Methuen police said in a message to the community this week that three Methuen businesses have been scammed in just the past week.

The scammers reportedly operate by calling people and saying they’ll shut off service if they don’t immediately pay past due balances. They might also claim that a faulty meter needs to be replaced for a fee, even though that’s not the customer’s responsibility.

Payment is demanded via wire transfer or pre-paid debit cards, because that way it’s impossible to recover the money.

“Unfortunately, we have seen a rise in these types of phone scams in which victims send money through wire transfer or on pre-paid cards and the funds are gone forever,” Chief Joseph Solomon said in a statement. “Although these threats can feel intimidating, never send money to anyone you don’t know. Hang up the phone and call police immediately.”

Police say customers should also be aware that scammers might know the last four digits of their social security number and can mimic the National Grid phone number on Caller ID.

National Grid says customers should never pay using gift cards, pre-paid cards or money orders.

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