SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

February 5, 2014

Peabody fish market reports receiving scam calls

BY ETHAN FORMAN
STAFF WRITER

---- — PEABODY —At the end of January, New Brothers Restaurant and Deli, a well-known Danvers Square eatery, was targeted with a scam in which a caller threatened to shut off power in less than an hour unless a payment was made.

The co-owner, however, was wise to what was going on and did not fall for it.

Yesterday morning, Maria Machado of Machado Fish Market on Paleologos Street said she received similar calls from a man with an accent who gave the name of “Frank,” who demanded $1,000 or else her fish market’s power would be shut off.

“He kept calling and calling and he wouldn’t stop calling,” Machado said.

The first call came to the market and was picked up by her husband, she said. He relayed the information to Machado, who checked with the Peabody Municipal Light Plant. They said her bills were paid on time.

“That’s how I found out it was a scam,” Machado said.

The caller kept calling. Machado said she contacted police, but she was told there was little the department could do. She said police tried calling the number, which turned out to be an out-of-state number.

Police Sgt. Thomas O’Keefe said he did not see the incident in the police log, but he said such scams have become common. A Bridge Street business in Salem also fielded a similar call in the first week of January, according to a check of The Salem News police log.

A call to the number Machado found, which has a 978 area code, said simply: “Thank you for calling the National Grid connection department. At this moment all of our agents are busy. Please leave a detailed message and we will call you back.”

Peabody is served by its own municipal light department, and not National Grid. A message seeking comment was left with the alleged connection department.

“I knew it was something that was not right,” Machado said.

Jennifer Santoro, who handles community relations for Peabody Municipal Light Plant, said the department sent out a press release in early October warning customers about such scams. Santoro said the light plant does not collect bills over the phone or threaten customers in this manner. It will not ask residents to pay a bill with a pre-paid card.

The department has been working closely with the police and put a message in bills warning customers. The department has also been reaching out to seniors. She said other utilities have also been subject to these scams.

Customers are advised to call police at 978-538-1212 if they get such a call.

Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, by email at eforman@salemnews.com or on Twitter at @DanverSalemNews.