Protect yourself from scams as colder weather sets in
Scammers take advantage of temperature extremes to prey on customers
Imagine that you own a small coffee shop or restaurant, and your phone rings with an unexpected call from your energy provider. The person on the other end of the line assures you that your bills are past due and that if you don’t make an immediate payment of hundreds or thousands of dollars, your power will be shut off in thirty minutes. You have a full dining area, and the temperature outside is plummeting. What do you do?
Maybe you’re a homeowner or renter working from home or preparing a meal for your family. Your phone rings, and the person on the other end threatens to turn off your power unless you immediately pay for several months of energy use that you’re sure you’ve already taken care of. You ask to call back after you get online and look at your payment history, but the caller tells you that if you don’t make a payment now, your power will be shut off immediately. How do you react?
Scams are a perennial problem for energy customers across the United States and worldwide, but because these scams rely on urgency and a sense of danger to get around customers’ usual skepticism, the coldest and hottest months provide a unique opportunity for scammers to strike. That’s why Xcel Energy and the other North American utilities that form Utilities United Against Scams recognize Nov. 15, the start of wintry weather in much of the U.S., as Utility Scam Awareness Day. But no matter what the weather is like outside or what date is on the calendar, there are some key tips you can keep in mind to help you avoid falling prey to a scam.
- If you are ever in doubt, hang up and call us or verify your account status online. Even if you think a call might be genuine, you can let the caller know you will dial into a trusted number to talk with a representative. You can call us at 1-800-895-4999 or log into My Account to find your account details.
- Beware of callers who claim to represent your energy company but sound uneasy, irritated or angry. If you ask to speak with a manager or call back later, does the caller react with impatience? To steal your money, scammers need to convince you to take irrational action immediately, before you remember there are other ways to verify your account details. They won’t be happy if you ask for time to consider your options.
- Remember that Xcel Energy will always initially contact you by U.S. mail about any past due bill. We will also send a written disconnection notice before any power is turned off. If you receive a surprise call about an imminent shutoff, hang up and call us to verify your account status.
- Watch out if a caller demands immediate payment in a specific form. Xcel Energy provides many options for payment, whereas scammers often ask potential victims to pay in the form of gift cards, which can be difficult or impossible to trace.
When in doubt, take a moment, ask any questions and, if you are at all uncertain, hang up and contact us at the trusted number above. Find more tips to avoid phone, email, website and other scams on our website.