NorthWestern Energy says its customers in Montana are being targeted by scam phone calls threatening to shut off utilities if they do not pay immediately.
Customers subjected to the scam said they received a phone recording, telling them to call a 1-800 number.
The scammers appear to be calling utility customers throughout the state.
If customers suspect someone is trying to scam them, they should hang up and call NorthWestern Energy’s customer service number, [PAUSE] 888-467-2669.
NorthWestern says it sends multiple past-due notices before terminating services. If you get a cancellation notification, always verify it by dialing the customer service number on your utility bill.
Signs of Potential Scam Activity:
• Threat to disconnect: Scammers may aggressively tell a customer his or her utility bill is past due and service will be disconnected if a payment is not made – usually within less than an hour.
• Request for immediate payment: Scammers may instruct a customer to purchase a prepaid card – widely available at retail stores – then call them back supposedly to make a bill payment to his or her utility company.
• Request for prepaid card: When the customer calls back, the caller asks the customer for the prepaid card’s number, which grants the scammer instant access to the card’s funds, and the victim’s money is gone.
How Customers Can Protect Themselves:
• Customers should never purchase a prepaid card to avoid service disconnection or shutoff. Northwestern Energy and other utility companies do not specify how customers should make a bill payment and always offer a variety of ways to pay a bill, including accepting payments online, by phone, automatic bank draft, mail, or in person.
• If someone threatens immediate disconnection or shutoff of service, customers should hang up the phone, delete the email, or shut the door. Customers with delinquent accounts receive advance disconnection notification. NorthWestern Energy and other utility companies never send a single notification one hour or less before disconnection.
• If customers suspect someone is trying to scam them, they should hang up, delete the email, or shut the door. They should call NorthWestern Energy’s customer service number, 888-467-2669 in Montana and 800-245-6977. If customers ever feel that they are in physical danger, they should call 911.
Customers who suspect that they have been victims of fraud or who feel threatened during contact with one of these scammers, should contact local law enforcement authorities. The Federal Trade Commission’s website is also a good source of information about how to protect personal information.