Xcel Energy, along with other utilities across the U.S., launches scam awareness program | VailDaily.com

Xcel Energy, along with other utilities across the U.S., launches scam awareness program

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DENVER — Xcel Energy has joined more than 100 U.S. and Canadian electric, water and natural gas utilities to raise awareness about scams targeting customers.

Typically, customers receive a telephone call from an individual claiming to be a utility company representative. In some cases, scammers extort payments from customers by threatening to disconnect or shut off service immediately. To complicate matters, scammers are increasingly adept at disguising themselves as utility company representatives. For example, some scammers use technology to "spoof" a phone number so when a customer views caller ID, it appears the call is actually coming from a utility company when it is not.

Signs of a potential scam include:

• Threat to disconnect: Scammers may aggressively tell the customer his or her utility bill is past due and service will be disconnected if a payment is not made — usually within an hour.

• Request for immediate payment: Scammers may instruct a customer to purchase a prepaid card — widely available at retail stores — then instruct the customer to use the card to pay their utility bill.

• Request for prepaid card: When the customer calls back, the caller asks the customer for the prepaid card's number, which grants the scammer instant access to the card's funds and the victim's money is gone.

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Customers should never purchase a prepaid card to avoid service disconnection or shutoff. Xcel Energy and other legitimate utility companies do not specify how customers should make a bill payment and always offer a variety of ways to pay a bill.

If someone threatens immediate disconnection or shutoff of service, customers should hang up the phone, delete the email, or shut the door. Customers with delinquent accounts receive an advance disconnection notification, by mail and included with their regular monthly bill. Xcel Energy never sends a single notification one hour or less before disconnection.

If customers suspect a scam, they should call the Xcel Energy Customer Service number is 1-800-895-4999. They should not call the phone number the scammer provides.

Customers who suspect that they have been victims of fraud, or who feel threatened during contact with one of these scammers, should contact local law enforcement authorities or call 911.