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Phone Scams – Details On Scams Happening Locally

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NorthWestern Energy has received an influx of calls regarding a possible scam that appears to be targeting its customers.

Unfortunately, during cold weather scammers increasingly pose as utility company employees and other “energy savers” to try to get money, valuables or sensitive information for identity theft.

That’s why the company is reminding customers to be vigilant when it comes to callers seeking payment information or offers that sound too good to be true. For example, one national scam that has been reported in our area involves callers claiming to be billing representatives from your utility company. They tell you that to avoid an immediate shutoff, you need to settle an overdue bill by providing them with your credit card number or a prepaid debit card.

They can be convincing. They might use “spoofing” software that lets them falsely display the name and phone number of your utility company on your Caller ID. But you should know that NorthWestern Energy will provide several past-due notices before terminating service. If you get a cancellation notification, always verify it by dialing the customer service number on your utility bill. Don’t give the information to the caller unless you are sure you are indeed working with the utility.

Customers should be suspicious of any telephone or Internet solicitation offers particularly if they ask for personal information including credit card or bank account information. The Better Business Bureau offers these tips to avoid falling victim to a utility scam:

Never provide your social security number, credit card number or banking information to anyone requesting it over the phone or at your home unless you initiated the contact and feel confident with whom you are speaking.

If you receive a call claiming to be your utility company and feel pressured for immediate payment or personal information, hang up the phone and call the customer service number on your utility bill.

Never allow anyone into your home to check electrical wiring, natural gas pipes or appliances unless you have scheduled an appointment or have reported a utility problem. Also, ask utility employees for proper identification.

Always think safety first. Do not give in to high pressure tactics over the phone for information or in person to get into your home.

Customers with questions or concerns about potential scams should contact NorthWestern Energy or their state’s Consumer Affairs department to report possible scams or questionable business offers.

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