NorthWestern Energy warns of holiday season scam activity
Butte, Mont. – Dec. 17, 2018 – No matter how convincing the caller on the phone is, your electricity or gas will not be shut off immediately and your utility never asks for payment with prepaid debit or gift cards.
Thieves are trying to steal your money and they are using dirty and convincing tricks this holiday season.
Recently small businesses across Montana reported receiving calls that show up on phone ID screens as NorthWestern Energy from a number used by customers to reach our customer service representatives.
It’s a common tactic called spoofing where the caller falsifies information transmitted to caller ID displays.
During the holidays, scam attempts increase, so be cautious and skeptical.
Charlie Miller, whose family owns Linda Vista Golf Course and Miller Creek Café in Missoula, was targeted twice by this scam. Two years ago “NorthWestern Energy” called saying the business’ bill was past due and power would be shut off if a payment was not made immediately. Miller went to the office right away, checked and saw the business’ three NorthWestern Energy accounts were all paid. Then he called the number the original caller left with his staff member.
“The person who answered sounded very believable and professional,” Miller said.
The person on the phone instructed Miller to make a payment at one of four offices in Missoula that day with a money order. The “offices” were actually retail stores that offer money order sales and other fund transfer services. Miller recognized the calls were from criminals.
Last month when the caller ID at Miller Creek Café showed “NorthWestern Energy” was calling, Miller was suspicious.
The caller told him the business’ account was overdue and a shut off would happen quickly if payment wasn’t made immediately and provided a number to call for payment instructions. Miller hung up.
Scams tactics change, but common themes are:
• The caller threatens utility service will be turned off quickly if immediate payment isn’t made. Customers will receive multiple notices from their utility if payment is overdue before a service shut off takes place. It will not be a surprise.
• The caller promises that a refund will be issued when told a utility account is current. Call your utility if there is a question about your account status.
• The caller says payment must be made immediately with a prepaid debit, gift card or money order. Your utility will never ask for a specific type of payment.
If you think you have received a scam collection call, please make note of the phone number and share it with NorthWestern customer service representatives. Having such phone numbers can help thwart future scam calls.
Customers with questions or concerns about potential scams should contact NorthWestern Energy to report concerns or questionable calls. Montana customers can contact NorthWestern at (888) 467-2669.