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"Don't get scammed by crooks posing as NorthWestern Energy"

September 16, 2017View for printing

"ATTENTION!! I received a phone call from "NorthWestern Energy". The guy told me my meter at the DDC had to be replaced..inefficient, blah blah, and that I had to pay a $500 deposit that would be returned in 3 months. It sounded like a scam and I told him as much. I looked up the phone number while I was on the phone with him and it was NorthWestern Energy's phone number. He told me they were on their way to the studio to change the meter out today. I gave him my card number. After teaching, I checked my bank account and sure enough there is a scammed charge made to Playstation Gaming. Beware. This is the second time in three weeks I have had to change my card out."

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NorthWestern was contacted by a number of customers last night. They think they were able to get the number the scammers used disconnected, which slows them down at least temporarily. The business owner above has also agreed to work with NorthWestern on a social media video warning about scams.

These scams are an ongoing problem for NorthWestern and utilities across the country. The basic scheme is the same: Demand immediate payment, via credit card number or prepaid debit cards, for allegedly overdue bills. The threat is that power will be cut off if payment is not made quickly. A newer variation involves a claim that the customer's meter is outdated and needs to upgraded and the customer needs to make immediate payment or they will lose service. In general, these scam artists can be very convincing. Caller ID will often show the call from NorthWestern Energy.

In any scenario, these calls for the work of scammers. NorthWestern and other utilities don't call customers and demand immediate payment. Folks with overdue bills and in danger of getting service cut off will be well aware of that situation through written contact from the company. NorthWestern doesn't ask for payment via prepaid debit cards. The company makes great efforts to work with customers with issues involving overdue bills. That process is regulated closely by the Montana Public Service Commission.

NorthWestern has worked diligently over the last four or five years to boost awareness of these sorts of scams. There have been many newspaper and TV stories, social media posts and other efforts to combat this activity. Awareness has improved but every once in a while, customers fall victim to these scam calls.

NorthWestern advises people who receive suspicious calls to write down the phone number of the caller, refuse to pay, hang up and immediately call the company to report the issue. In Montana, customers should call their customer service folks at (888) 467-2669. By getting the phone number of the scammer, they can block use of that number, which forces them to line up another number and slows them down. To date, NorthWestern has blocked more than 200 numbers.

NorthWestern also works with law enforcement and other agencies, including the Federal Trade Commission. It can helpful for customers to contact the FTC, which also investigates utility scams and works with consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive or unfair business practices and to provide information to stop such activities. The FTC can be contacted at 1-877-FTC-HELP or (1-877-382-4357).


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Reprinted under the Fair Use doctrine of international copyright law. Full copyright retained by the original publication. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.


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