Beware of utility scam asking customers for immediate payment
Fergus Falls, MN – Imagine receiving a phone call from your utility company or a collection agency saying that your electricity is about to be cut off even though you know you’ve paid your bill. The caller ID indicates that the phone number might be legitimate. The caller says, “I can stop this, but only if you pay me.”
It’s probably a scam. The scammer’s caller ID is falsified so it appears to originate from the utility company, a practice known as “spoofing.” Scammers use a variety of techniques to defraud customers, including asking them to wire money or to use a prepaid debit or gift card or online payment service, such as PayPal. This scam has affected utility customers across the country.
Otter Tail Power Company has seen increased activity recently with scam contacts to residential and business customers in its service area in Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota. Some of these have used the name Xcel Energy and at times have indicated that Otter Tail Power Company is a subsidiary of Xcel, which is not true.
“I think our customers generally know NOT to share personal information, such as credit card or checking account numbers, with individuals who contact them in this manner, but we want them to be aware that this scam is out there,” said Matt Bucher, Supervisor, Customer Care, for Otter Tail Power Company. “We advise our customers that, if they ever question whether a call is legitimate, they should obtain the name of the caller if possible, hang up, and then call our company’s customer service number, 800-257-4044, which is also on your bill. This will ensure that they actually are communicating with a representative of our company. If the call turns out to have been a scam, we urge the customer to report this illegal activity to their local law enforcement agency and to the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-FTC-HELP.”
Bucher added that at times Otter Tail Power Company contracts with survey companies to benchmark customer satisfaction. “But at no point in those telephone conversations would the survey companies ask for payments, credit card numbers, or Social Security numbers,” said Bucher.
Otter Tail Power Company, a subsidiary of Otter Tail Corporation (NASDAQ Global Select Market: OTTR), is headquartered in Fergus Falls, Minnesota. It provides electricity and energy services to more than a quarter million people in Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota. To learn more about Otter Tail Power Company visit www.otpco.com. To learn more about Otter Tail Corporation visit www.ottertail.com