BUTTE, Mont. — NorthWestern Energy is reporting an all-time high in scam activity this week from customers on the receiving end of calls in which scammers threaten to shut off service if customers don’t take immediate actions that include making payments by gift cards, Bitcoin or other forms of payment.
The increase in reports also includes instances where callers manipulate caller ID to make it appear as if an energy company is making the call, commonly referred to as caller ID spoofing. Reports include scammers even going as far as showing up at locations and demanding payment.
“We want our customers to know that we do not use coercive scare tactics to force customers to pay bills, and we won’t tell you your service will be shut off immediately without a payment,” Lori St. Aubin, Director of Customer Care at NorthWestern Energy. “That kind of behavior is a dead giveaway that the caller is a scammer.”
St. Aubin added that a NorthWestern Energy representative will never come to a customer’s home, offering an unscheduled service or asking for payment.
For other services, a technician may knock on your door to alert you of his/her presence before making repairs or installing equipment, but will not need to enter your home.
In addition, NorthWestern Energy requires field employees and contractors to wear identification badges at all times. Anyone claiming to be a NorthWestern Energy employee or contractor will be happy to present a badge and employee number when contacting customers in the field. Employees are never authorized to receive payments in the field.
Customers should note that NorthWestern Energy will not:
• Endorse or require a prepaid debit card, gift card, Bitcoin or other cryptocurrency for payments;
• Collect payment at customers’ homes or businesses;
• Ask for Social Security numbers, bank account or credit card information by phone; or
• Demand immediate payment. NorthWestern representatives work with customers on payment arrangements and many additional steps before a shut off situation for nonpayment is necessary.
“If you get a call or a text message like this, hang up right away,” St. Aubin advised. “If you have any doubt about a caller, or suspect the call may be fraudulent, contact us using the phone number on your most recent bill, or avoid the call queue, which can be longer during peak activity, and report it online.
You should also file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FCC) so the proper authorities can respond accordingly.”
NorthWestern Energy works closely with the FCC and has shut down hundreds of numbers on behalf of their customers as scam activity is reported.
For more information, visit https://www.northwesternenergy.com/scamalert for additional tips and reminders to protect yourself.