CONSUMER ALERT: Power company warns customers about billing scams

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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (XCEL ENERGY NEWS RELEASE) – Xcel Energy today warned customers of increased incidences of scams targeting utility customers. The scams generally involve attempts to illegally obtain payments for fictitious utility bills.

Individuals impersonating Xcel Energy representatives or collection agency personnel are utilizing a variety of techniques to gain access to customers’ funds, usually by indicating a customer has an outstanding debt and is about to immediately lose service.

In many cases, the impersonator directs the customer to go to a local retailer and purchase a pre-paid cash card. The impersonator then persuades the customer to provide the card number over the phone.

In some cases, impersonators provide a fake employee name and/or a fake ID number, and offer to come to the customer’s residence to pick up the payment. Impersonators also appear to have “spoofed” an Xcel Energy telephone number, thus making it look like the call is from the company.

There have been variations to obtaining the bogus payments, including requests over the phone for payment by credit card or personal check.

Impersonators also have used different stories, such as telling a customer he or she has overpaid a bill, so that the company needs personal bank account or credit card information to be given over the telephone to refund the money.

Impersonators have shown up at customer homes and told customers that their meter is broken and immediate payment is needed for repairs. Customers are told that the utility later will refund the money.

The reports of billing scams in Xcel Energy service territory are consistent with what other utilities are reporting across the country. Xcel Energy investigates all reported impersonations and recommends that customers also contact their local law enforcement agencies.

Xcel Energy always advises that customers should only use authorized methods and proven banking practices to pay their bills. Credit card numbers and any personal information should not be provided to suspicious callers.

If a customer has given credit card information over the phone to someone posing as an Xcel Energy employee, Xcel Energy recommends that the customer call his or her credit card company and follow the company’s recommendations.

Customers should report incidents to Xcel Energy at 1-800-895-4999. Xcel Energy also provides information on its website on how to identify email or phone scams and protect important information and how to identify an Xcel Energy worker.

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