Attorney General Kilmartin and National Grid Warn of Billing Scams Targeting Rhode Island Businesses
After receiving more than a dozen complaints from small business owners alerting the Office that they were targets of a billing scam with callers posing as representatives of National Grid, Attorney General Kilmartin is urging other businesses to be on high alert should they receive a phone call from a person purporting to be from the company.
Business owners have reported that the person calling seeks payment for a past due balance on their utility bill. In some instances, the caller offers to “lower” the amount owed if the customer agrees to make an immediate payment. The caller requests payment be made by a pre-paid debit-like card (available at retail locations) and provides a fraudulent phone number for the business owner to call back with the pre-paid card information. In some instances, the caller provides the location of nearby retail outlets that sell the pre-paid cards.
The phone number the scammers provide to customers is 855-842-4526, which is an automated system that mimics National Grid’s iconic tagline “National Grid. Here with you. Here for you,” followed by prompts to connect with an operator.
Attorney General Kilmartin confirmed with National grid that the phone number is not associated with the company. The scammer may be using several different phone numbers associated with the scam.
“These outfits are becoming more elaborate in their scam and savvier in finding new and convincing ways to trick consumers and small business owners into thinking they are dealing with an actual National Grid representative. It’s important to report it to our office or National Grid if you receive one of these phone calls so we can alert other businesses and consumers before they fall victim,” said Attorney General Kilmartin.
Timothy Horan, President and COO of National Grid Rhode Island said, “Protecting our customers from these types of scams is a major priority for National Grid and we’re grateful to Attorney General Kilmartin for his vigilance. We want our customers to recognize suspicious activity, report it, and be confident in knowing when they are interacting with our customer service team.”
National Grid offers the following tips to consumers to help spot a scam call:
Customers who have received calls demanding immediate payment and are asked to make a payment using an iTunes card, pre-paid debit card, or asked for bank account information should contact National Grid immediately at National Grid’s Customer Contact Center at 1-800-322-3223.
To report the scam to the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Unit, please call 401-274-4400 or email email@example.com.
About National Grid
National Grid (LSE: NG; NYSE: NGG) is an electricity, natural gas, and clean energy delivery company that supplies the energy for more than 20 million people through its networks in New York, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island. It is the largest distributor of natural gas in the Northeast. National Grid also operates systems that deliver gas and electricity across Great Britain.
National Grid is transforming its electricity and natural gas networks to support the 21st century digital economy with smarter, cleaner, and more resilient energy solutions. Read more about the innovative projects happening across our footprint in The Democratization of Energy, an eBook written by National Grid’s US president, Dean Seavers.
For more information please visit our website: www.nationalgridus.com. You can also follow us on Twitter, watch us on You Tube, friend us on Facebook and find our photos on Instagram.
Paid Leave Update – Important News !
Last Friday evening, the House Labor Committee passed an amended version of the House paid leave bill (H.5413) and then proceeded to amend the Senate bill (S.290) to mirror the new house bill. It appears, although anything could happen when the House and Senate come into session Tuesday, there might be an agreement to pass the two bills. While these bill have greatly improved over the original bills, there are new mandates for businesses as are outlined below.
If passed on Tuesday, the Governor is expected to sign the bill quickly. The Department of Labor and Training has indicated that it will start a series of public forums to accept recommendations for drafting regulations that will be necessary in order to govern the leave program. The public forums are expected to start this month and finish in October. Following the forums, the Department will draft a proposed rule and could either promulgate them as an emergency rule or continue through the normal formal hearing process. Obviously regulations must be completed in time to alert employers and employees, and allow employers to put in place systems for compliance.
Who’s covered and who’s not:
1. Employers with less than 18 employees are not required to provide paid time off (PTO); however they are required to give employees at least 3 days unpaid leave per year.
2. Municipalities are exempt in both versions. In June both bills included definitions for temporary and seasonal employees that inadvertently referred only to municipal employees. This problem seems to be fixed.
3. Construction companies that are operating under a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) are exempt until July 1, 2018. However, the effective date of the bill for all employers is July 1, 2018.
4. Per diem nurses are exempt.
How much PTO is required and how is it accrued:
1. The bills call for 24 hours in calendar year 2018; 32 hours in 2019; and 40 hours thereafter. The accrual is at a rate of 1 hour for every 35 hours worked. If an employer provides the minimum required hours at the beginning of the year, in a lump sum so to speak, then the employer is exempt from the administrative tracking of the legislation. However, the employer must allow the PTO to be used for every covered reason under the legislation (see below for explanation)
2. Salaried employees are considered to work 40 hours a week
3. If an employer does not provide the required number of days up front, then accrual of PTO starts at the commencement of employment (or enactment of the statute for current employees), and employees can start using it after 90 days of employment. Employees are entitled to carryover any unused time to the following year unless the employer chooses to pay the employee for unused time. The bills specifically state that an employer is not required to buy out unused time. Also, if the employee carries over unused time, the employee can still not use more than 24 hours in 2018, 32 hours in 2019 or 40 hours thereafter.
4. The bills require employees transferred from one location in the state to another to keep the amount of PTO accrued. If there is a separation of employment for 135 days or less, the employee retains the number of PTO days accrued previously. If a company is sold, the new owner must provide the retained employees the number of PTO accrued under the previous owner.
5. The bills allow employers to provide different PTO policies to different groups of employees as long as every employee receives at least the PTO levels set forth in the state law.
6. The bills establish a chart for calculating an alternative accrual system for PTO based on the average number of hours employees work per week
Employee Avg hour worked
Number Hours Accrued Per Month
How can PTO be used:
1. Temporary employees (defined as “any person working for, or obtaining employment pursuant to an agreement with any employment agency, placement service, or training school or center”) can begin taking PTO after the 180th calendar day of work, or earlier if the employer allows. Seasonal employees (defined under the federal regulation CFR 54.4980H-1(a)(38)) can use sick leave on the 150th calendar day following commencement of employment. For both Temporary and Seasonal employees, accrual begins on the first day of employment. For all other employees, PTO can be used after 90 days on the job unless the employer allows days to be used earlier.
2. The bills still use the expanded definition of “Care recipient” in addition to family members. “Care recipient” means “a person for whom the employee is responsible for providing or arranging health or safety related care…” Employees can use PTO to care for themselves, family members or if they are acting as a care recipient.
3. The bills allow employees to use PTO for their own illness or preventative care as well as someone else’s illness or preventative care, closure of the business for health emergencies, closure of an employee’s child’s school due to health emergency, domestic violence situations, sexual assaults or stalking.
4. The bills allow employers to set a minimum of 4 hours per day for PTO use, provided that minimum is “reasonable under the circumstances.” For example, if it is 3pm and the employer’s business is shut down due to a health emergency, an employer could not deduct 4 hours of PTO from an employee when that employee only had 2 hours to the end of the work day.
Notice and Documentation Provisions:
1. PTO must be provided upon the request of an employee entitled to receive it. Both versions state that if the reason for the request is “foreseeable” then the employee must provide notice in advance of use and “shall make reasonable effort to schedule the use…in a manner that does not unduly disrupt the operations of the employer.”
2. If the reason for PTO is “unforeseeable” then the employee must following the employer’s policy for notice – if one exists. If the employer does not have a policy then the employer cannot deny the request for PTO. This provision seeks to address the “No call, no show, no problem” issue.
3. The bills state that when an employee uses more than 3 consecutive days of PTO, the employer can ask for documentation as long as the employer’s written policy requires such documentation. The documentation cannot disclose the actual nature of an illness (unless required under state or federal law) or violence issue, and cannot cause an undue burden or expense on the employee.
4. Employers can require documentation of reason if the PTO request is within 2 weeks of the employee’s final day of work.
5. Both versions consider the following “reasonable documentation”: written statement by employee that a family member or care recipient is a victim of domestic violence, stalking or sexual assault; police report; court document; signed statement from victim and witness advocate saying the family member or care recipient is receiving services; a health care provider note.
Things for which PTO cannot be used:
1. Both versions disallow PTO for being late without an authorized purpose
2. If an employee is committing fraud or abuse by using PTO for other reasons than intended, the employer can discipline the employee – including termination. The same discipline applies to employees that “exhibit a clear pattern of taking leave on days just before or after a weekend, vacation, or holiday” unless reasonable documentation is provided. This is found in both versions of the legislation.
1. The House version won out in this debate which is key for the business community. The bills specifically exempt municipalities from adopting any paid leave provision other than the state’s law.
1. The bills take effect 7/1/2018.
Interconnectivity between Newport and Salve Regina University to be explored by The Alliance for a Livable Newport
How does our local University enhance Newport’s quality of life? Does it detract? The Alliance for A Livable Newport has invited a leadership team from Salve Regina University to highlight the economic, educational, aesthetic and charitable contributions made to the city and the challenges an urban University faces as a member of our community.
“During the many years ALN has adressed issues affecting the quality of life in Newport, we’ve overlooked one of our most signfiicant assests, that of Salve Regina University,” said John Hirschboeck, co-president of the Alliance. “Here is an opportunity for Newport residents and businesses to learn what is -- and will be -- taking place at our local University and its impact on our city.
“We appreciate the opportunity afforded by the Alliance of a Livable Newport to inform our community about what our University offers and to learn from the community about issues and concerns it may have regarding our institution and student body,” said Sister Jane Gerety, President of Salve Regina.” “We have been a proud member of the Newport community for 70 years. Our positioning statement, “Learn Lead Make a Difference,” I believe, also applies to the responsibility we feel towards Newport.”
DATE: Monday, September 18
TIME: 6-7:30pm, followed by a tour of the new O’Hare Academic Center
LOCATION: O’Hare Academic Center: Ochre Pt. Ave. and Shephard Ave.
(Bazarsky Autitorium.) Free parking for Foum across Ochre Pt. Ave.
ABOUT THE ALLIANCE FOR A LIVABLE NEWPORT
For over 10 years, the Alliance for a Livable Newport has promoted and enhanced the quality of life in its city by providing an unbiased resource for information on issues facing our community.
We are excited to announce that our 2017 Board of Directors has officially been instated. To help members learn more about our Board, we have added a new component to our monthly e-newsletter. Our “5 Questions with the Board” feature will profile a different Board member each month!
This month, we welcome and introduce our Chairman Ex Officio, Mr. Glenn T. Almquist! Glenn is the Sr. Vice President, Senior Principal, at Woodard & Curran.
1. What was your primary motivation for becoming a member of the Newport County Chamber of Commerce?
My primary motivation for becoming a member and remaining a member has been business advocacy in Newport County and working with the Chamber to address challenges that our member businesses are facing.
2. What do you find most interesting about your business or industry?
Woodard & Curran is a diverse national company with clients in the industrial, commercial, and government sectors. These clients are constantly presented with technical challenges to their businesses. Working with the incredibly talented people at Woodard & Curran we assist our clients solve these problems using our science, engineering, and operations skill sets. What I find most interesting is working with a diverse set of clients and staff to address technical problems, specifically as they relate to water and environmental issues.
3. How has your membership with the Newport County Chamber of Commerce helped to advance your business or industry?
Becoming involved with the Chamber has provided a vehicle for networking and developing relationships that provide insight into business opportunities in Newport County and beyond.
4. What is your favorite Newport County Chamber of Commerce event or program?
There are numerous activities that the chamber organizes throughout the year that are all different, yet I find them important from a business, educational, or enjoyment perspective. Annual Meeting is always special and one that I look forward to each year. Also, I really enjoy the Economic Updates and Politics & Pancakes series that take place throughout the year, and of course the annual golf event should not be missed, even if you’re not a golfer (just watch me!)
5. What do you hope to bring to the Newport County Chamber of Commerce as a Board Member in 2017?
As a Chamber Board member, I intend to work with our dedicated and talented staff and fellow Board members to understand the needs of our members, continue our successful programs, and develop new initiatives to ensure the Chamber remains relevant and focused on programs that are important to our members. I also intend to remain active in our Government Affairs Committee which continues to become more active with state and local regulatory issues important to members.
Also, I am excited to continue working toward the start-up of the Chamber led initiative to develop a Regional Economic Development Division. When successful, this Division of the Chamber will fill a gap and serve as a resource to community leaders and the entire business community.
Social Enterprise Greenhouse is now accepting applications for its 2018 Food Accelerator! This is a great opportunity for all do well, do good food businesses looking to have a greater impact in their communities and beyond. The program offers curriculum developed and delivered in partnership with Brown University, face-to-face instruction and peer learning, and access to the SEG Advisor network to help your business grow. Applications are due October 17th at midnight! Click here for more information: http://bit.ly/SEGAccelerator