(The Havre Herald) Scammers are calling NorthWestern Energy customers, threatening to cut off their utilities unless they immediately make payment.
Customers receive a recorded message telling them to call an 800 number to avoid having service interrupted. When they call the number, the person who answers demands immediate payment.
NorthWestern says it started hearing about the scam from customers throughout Montana on Wednesday. The company has reported the illegal calls to authorities.
The scam artists often instruct the customer to purchase a prepaid card that is widely available at many retail stores. Then they are instructed to make payment by reading their card number to the scammer. The scammers then have immediate access to the money. Traditional credit and debit cards are easier to trace.
NorthWestern public relations specialist Jo Dee Black said the company is suggesting that when people get the scam calls they just hang up, delete the email or shut the door. They should then report the incident to NorthWestern’s customer service number, (888) 467-2669 or (800) 245-6977. People who feel they are in physical danger should promptly call 911.
Then victims of the scammers should call other local authorities. The Federal Trade Commission’s website is a good source of information about how to protect personal information, Black said.
She said NorthWestern never suddenly calls people and threatens that they are about to have their utilities disconnected.
They receive several warning notices in the mail. NorthWestern and other utilities never give a verbal notice with a one-hour warning.
NorthWestern also never specifies how a payment should be made. Customers always have the option of paying by check, by phone, by automatic bank draft, by mail or in person.
If in doubt about whether the call is from a scammer, Montanans should call the phone number on their NorthWestern utility bill.