Ashland police says scammers are targeting Ashland businesses and residents by making false threats of shutting their utility services off unless they pay over the phone.

The scam is a variation of an ongoing national scheme, according to a city press release.

Several local customers have reported that they were contacted by people claiming to represent the city. They were told to call a number to resolve their unpaid bills and avoid having their power disconnected, according to the press release.

Customers who followed the instruction reported hearing the same recorded message callers hear when they call the city, and when they pressed a button, they were connected with a person "who will try his best to scam you out of your money."

"When you are connected, a person will say 'City of Ashland,'" Ashland Police Chief Tighe O'Meara said. "And then he'll try to scam you."

"I was told that he has a thick accent, but when I tried to call the number, I was disconnected," he added.

City staff says the number is not part of the city's phone system and suspected that scammers have copied the city's recording to make the scam more believable.

O'Meara said police is aware of two incidents. Neither caller ended up being victimized.

Police warn residents to not make any payment when contacted in this matter and asks them to either call Ashland Police or the city's Customer Service Division.

"The city will never call and request payment over the phone for utility charges," the press release reads. "Utility customers are sent their monthly utility bills by mail or e-mail, and are notified of any past due charges on that statement."

If payments are not being made, a service person will visit the property to notify customers prior to termination of service, the press release further notes.

Ashland Police can be contacted at 541-482-5211. The city's Customer Service Division can be contacted at 541-488-6004.