CLOVIS (KSMX)- With a spike in reported utility scams this year, Xcel Energy is joining forces with Utilities United Against Scams to raise awareness on the fourth annual Utility Scam Awareness Day, November 20.
UUAS is a group of more than 140 American and Canadian utilities and trade organizations dedicated to protecting consumers from scams. It has helped raise awareness and shut down nearly 5,000 toll-free numbers used by scammers, since 2015. Despite this progress, scammers are growing more sophisticated and aggressive, and more people are falling prey to them nationwide.
This year, residential Xcel Energy customers have reported more than a 400 percent increase in scams over 2018 and commercial customers have reported a 35 percent increase in scams compared to last year.
The Better Business Bureau says that the average loss for the victim of a utility scam is $500.
“Xcel Energy is working diligently to help protect our customers from scams. We want customers to be aware and check their online account or use the mobile app to review their bill,” said Chris Cardenas, vice president of Customer Care at Xcel Energy. “Calls from Xcel Energy about past due bills will never include threats or demands for payment within the hour.”
Increasingly, scammers are using technology that allows them to “spoof” a phone number, so when customers view caller ID the call appears to be coming from the utility company. Other consumers report receiving emails or even having scammers posing as utility company representatives knock on their door.
National Utility Scam Awareness Day
Scammers may instruct customers to buy a prepaid card, which is widely available at retail stores and work like cash. If a customer gives the scammer that card number, the money is gone and untraceable.
Be wary of calls that come in at night and on weekends. Xcel Energy will only contact residential customers from 9 a.m.- 8 p.m. CST and business customers 8 a.m.- 5 p.m. CST.
Business customers should also be aware that scammers may call during peak business hours, with urgent threats that their service will be cut-off during their busiest times of day.
Xcel Energy will not ask customers for personal bank account or credit card numbers to refund an overpayment of a bill. Overpayments are usually applied to future bills, or if they are refunded, that will only be done by mailing a check to the customer’s address on file.
How to protect yourself
- If someone threatens you with immediate disconnection, hang up the phone, delete the email or shut the door. Customers with past due accounts receive an advance disconnection notification by mail. Xcel Energy never sends a single notification an hour or less before disconnection.
- Xcel Energy customers will never be instructed to purchase a prepaid card in order to avoid service disconnection. Xcel Energy and other legitimate utility companies will not specify how customers make their payments and always offer a variety of options to do so.
- If you suspect you’re being scammed, call Xcel Energy at the number on your monthly bill, go to “My Account” on XcelEnergy.com, or check the mobile app. Xcel Energy’s customer service number is 1-800-895-4999. Customers should not call a different number provided by scammers.
- Consumers who believe they are victims of fraud, or who feel threatened by a scammer, should contact local police.
- The Federal Trade Commission’s website has additional tips for consumers to protect themselves from fraud and options for reporting it: https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/media-resources/identity-theft-and-data-security/filing-complaint