News

Be Aware: Utility Scams on the Rise

Here’s how to protect yourself from scammers

By: | November 19, 2019

You’re busy cooking dinner for your family, distracted while picking up your kids from school, or overwhelmed trying to get through your never-ending to-do list.

Someone who says they are from your energy company calls, insists your bill is overdue and threatens to shut off your power if you don’t pay now.

Or a person claiming to work for the company shows up at your door, tells you there’s an issue with your utility meter, and charges you for their services. 

Or an email that appears to be from your energy company states you overpaid your last bill and asks you to click on a link to claim your refund.

These are all common imposter scam tactics, and while they may seem like obvious deceptions, it’s easier to fall for them than you think – especially in the moment.

 

Imposter scams are the most common type of fraud reported to the Federal Trade Commission, with more than 1.4 million submitted reports last year – a 38% increase from 2017.

That’s why it’s critical you know how to protect yourself and your family.

November 20 marks the fourth-annual Utility Scam Awareness Day, and to help ensure you are one step ahead, here are seven common scam tactics and how to avoid them.

1. Scammer tells intended victims their account is past due and they must pay using a prepaid debit card, such as a Green Dot card.

Xcel Energy provides many options for payment; we NEVER REQUIRE the use of a prepaid debit card.

2. Scammer threatens to turn off power if a payment is not made immediately.

Xcel Energy sends disconnection notices by U.S. mail before turning off power.

3. Scammers may call on nights and weekends.

Xcel Energy contacts customers Monday through Friday only – not on weekends. Business customers are contacted from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. (CST) and residential customers from 9 a.m. – 8 p.m. (CST).

4. Scammer claims the customer has overpaid their energy bill and needs to provide a personal bank account or credit card number to facilitate a refund.

Xcel Energy will apply overpayments to a customer’s billing account allowing the credit balance to cover future energy charges. Refunds of overpayments are typically only made by mailing a check to the customer’s address on file. We will not call a customer to ask for bank account or credit card information for the purpose of providing a refund.

5. Scammer provides a fake account number, anticipating the customer will not know their own or have access to it.

Xcel Energy can provide additional information to confirm that a payment reminder call is legitimate. For example, you could ask us to provide you with the date you opened an account with the company.

6. Scammer may play a recording that sounds like an Xcel Energy phone system message when a victim calls the call back number they provide.

Xcel Energy’s standard customer service lines are 800.895.4999 (residential callers) and 800.481.4700 (business callers). You may call these numbers to verify the authenticity of a call you received.

7. Scammer manipulates caller ID to display a fake number, which may be Xcel Energy’s number.

This is called spoofing. If Xcel Energy calls a customer, it will be from the phone numbers listed above. If you are suspicious about the call you are receiving, you may always hang up and call back. You can always count on a legitimate representative helping you with your billing and payment questions at these numbers.

What to do if you suspect a scam

If you are an Xcel Energy customer and feel you are the victim of a scam or an attempted scam, please contact law enforcement to report the scam. You can also check your account status using My Account or our mobile app, or contact Xcel Energy Customer Service at 800.895.4999 or CustomerService@xcelenergy.com

Drew E.
Drew E.

As a communication consultant at Xcel Energy-Colorado, Drew helps create customer and community connections through storytelling.