Hydro History Book
Butte, Mont. – Sept. 23, 2021 – NorthWestern Energy is reporting an all-time high in scam activity this week from customers on the receiving end of calls in which scammers threaten to shut off service if customers don’t take immediate actions that include making payments by gift cards, Bitcoin or other forms of payment.
The increase in reports also includes instances where callers manipulate caller ID to make it appear as if an energy company is making the call, commonly referred to as caller ID spoofing. Reports include scammers even going as far as showing up at locations and demanding payment.
“We want our customers to know that we do not use coercive scare tactics to force customers to pay bills, and we won’t tell you your service will be shut off immediately without a payment,” Lori St. Aubin, Director of Customer Care at NorthWestern Energy. “That kind of behavior is a dead giveaway that the caller is a scammer.”
A NorthWestern Energy representative will never come to your home offering an unscheduled service or asking for payment. For other services, a technician may knock on your door to alert you of his/her presence before making repairs or installing equipment, but will not need to enter your home.
In addition, NorthWestern Energy requires field employees and contractors to wear identification badges at all times. Anyone claiming to be a NorthWestern Energy employee or contractor will be happy to present a badge and employee number when contacting customers in the field. Employees are never authorized to receive payments in the field.
In an effort to raise awareness, NorthWestern Energy shared specific scam attempts that customers have reported this week:
• “Staff at our clinic reported that someone who appeared to be from NorthWestern Energy, came to the facility and told them because the account was past due, power would be shut off. This was alarming as we take anything that impacts our facility with the utmost seriousness,” reported a commercial customer.
• A residential Butte customer reported: “I received a call on my cellphone last night that claimed to be the billing department at NorthWestern Energy. After being prompted to dial 1 to talk to a representative, the live agent asked me to verify my name and address. I hesitated and asked for a number to call back and the agent stumbled for a moment with my question but responded by providing an 888 number to dial back. I quickly checked NorthWestern’s website and noticed that the number provided differed from the NorthWestern Energy customer service number.”
• “I just received an automated call from ‘NorthWestern Energy’ telling me that my electricity will be shut off in the next 45 minutes due to lack of payment in July and August. Our account is totally up-to-date – I checked to make sure, so I knew this must be a scam attempt,” reported Lori Hart, NorthWestern Energy customer
• “As an employee, I was surprised when I received the scam call yesterday afternoon. I quickly realized that the number they called wasn’t even tied to my NorthWestern account. It was sneaky because it looked like I was receiving a local call, which I usually answer as opposed to an ‘Unknown’ caller ID reference,” commented Josh Peck, employee and customer.
Customers should note that NorthWestern Energy will not:
• Endorse or require a prepaid debit card, gift card, Bitcoin or other cryptocurrency for payments;
• Collect payment at customers’ homes or businesses;
• Ask for Social Security numbers, bank account or credit card information by phone; or
• Demand immediate payment. NorthWestern representatives work with customers on payment arrangements and many additional steps before a shut off situation for nonpayment is necessary.
“If you get a call or a text message like this, hang up right away,” St. Aubin advised. “If you have any doubt about a caller, or suspect the call may be fraudulent, contact us using the phone number on your most recent bill, or avoid the call queue, which can be longer during peak activity, and report it online. You should also file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FCC) so the proper authorities can respond accordingly.”
NorthWestern Energy works closely with the FCC and has shut down hundreds of numbers on behalf of their customers as scam activity is reported.
For more information, visit https://www.northwesternenergy.com/scamalert for additional tips and reminders to protect yourself.
Follow us on Facebook or on Twitter (@NWEinfo).
About NorthWestern Energy (Nasdaq: NWE)
NorthWestern provides electricity and / or natural gas to approximately 743,000 customers in Montana, South Dakota, and Nebraska. We have generated and distributed electricity in South Dakota and distributed natural gas in South Dakota and Nebraska since 1923 and have generated and distributed electricity and distributed natural gas in Montana since 2002. More information on NorthWestern is available on the company’s website at www.northwesternenergy.com.
Jo Dee Black