Provided by Xcel Energy
Reports of scams targeting Xcel Energy customers have increased significantly in the first four months of 2014, and company officials are again cautioning customers to protect themselves from this nationwide threat.
"Our relationships with customers are built on trust, and any incidents of scamming are serious threats not only to our customers but also to our company's ability to do business," said Michael Gersack, vice president of Customer Care for Xcel Energy. "If you feel like there is any possibility that you are dealing with an impersonator, we recommend that you hang up immediately and call us directly to verify your account status."
In the first four months of 2013, the company received 244 reports of scams across the eight states it serves. That number rose to more than 2,500 during the first four months of this year.
Scammers have tried various ways to trick customers into providing payment, usually over the phone. They have been known to:
• Tell intended victims their account is past due and threaten to turn of their power if they do not make a payment right away.
• Require victims to pay using a pre-paid debit card, such as a Green Dot card.
• Manipulate caller ID to display a fake number, which may actually be Xcel Energy's number. This is called "spoofing."
Scammers have targeted all classes of customers, but particularly small businesses such as restaurants. In most cases, a scammer calls during busy hours of operation and threatens to disconnect the customer's power unless they make a payment over the phone.
"We understand how unsettling this is to our customers, and we're working with the appropriate authorities to track down the criminals behind the scams and put a stop to it," Gersack said. "But in the meantime we ask that customers keep their security top of mind, and report any suspicious calls to us."
If a customer is behind on their bill, Xcel Energy sends a written notice first before service disconnection. Customers who have not received a disconnect notice in the mail should not engage anyone on the phone offering to take payment. Instead, customers should hang up and contact Xcel Energy to verify account status and report the attempted scam.
Residential customers should call 1-800-895-4999, and business customers should call 1-800-481-4700.
Xcel Energy recently updated scam prevention information at http://connect.xcelenergy.com/scams/. Among the tips offered are:
• Never give out personal information, credit card numbers or wire money as a result of an unexpected or unsolicited call if you cannot validate the caller's authenticity.
• Xcel Energy provides many options for payment; be suspicious if the caller is insisting on the use of a pre-paid debit card.
• Be aware that Xcel Energy will contact customers first by U.S. mail about past due bills – not over the phone. You will be sent a disconnection notice in writing before your power is actually turned off.