Scammers are increasingly posing as the utility company and other “energy savers” to try and get your money or sensitive information for fraudulent purposes. Recently, we’ve had customer reports of various scam activity throughout our service area. Please keep the following tips in mind:
- NorthWestern Energy sends hard copy bills in the mail.
- If you’ve previously arranged to get statements online, you will receive an email message advising your statement is available.
- We do not email utility bills to our customers. Customers that have enrolled in our paperless bill option will be notified via email that their utility bill is available for viewing through their NorthWestern Energy Online Customer Care account at www.northwesternenergy.com.
- Don’t respond to unexpected email messages from senders you don’t know. A scam email may look very similar to one from a legitimate business. Don’t click on links or open attachments you don’t recognize. Doing so could put malware on your computer.
- Your utility company will never call and demand payment via a prepaid debit card. Prepaid debit cards are becoming an increasingly popular method of payment for scammers. Wire transfer services have tightened their security, so crooks have turned to these prepaid cards instead. The cards are difficult to trace, and you do not need photo identification to collect or spend the money. Be sure you treat a prepaid debit card like cash and remember that transactions cannot be reversed.
- We will not email you with threats to pay your account.
- Customers who are behind on bill payment receive several written past-due notices prior to any actual disconnection. We never call demanding payment – that is one of the most common utility scams.
- Scams can be convincing. They may use “spoofing” software that lets them falsely display the name and phone number of NorthWestern Energy on your Caller ID. If you get a cancellation notification (especially by phone), always verify it by dialing the customer service number on your utility bill. Don’t give any information to the caller.
- Have you been told you qualify for a 15 to 20 percent discount on your utility bill if you’ll provide your customer account number? Don’t do it. If it sounds too good to be true, it likely is.
- NorthWestern Energy will never arrive unannounced on your doorstep offering a free inspection or evaluation of your home. You have to initiate a request for an audit and an appointment for any service work would be pre-scheduled.
- The only exception to this rule would be in the case of an emergency. But it is likely that additional emergency personnel would be on-site at the time as well.
- NorthWestern Energy employees and contractors carry identification on them at all times.
The Better Business Bureau is another excellent resource. They advise the following:
- Never provide your Social Security Number, credit card number or banking information to anyone requesting it over the phone or at your home unless you initiated the contact and feel confident with whom you are speaking.
- If you receive a call claiming to be your utility company and feel pressured for immediate payment or personal information, hang up the phone and call the customer service number on your utility bill.
- Never allow anyone into your home to check electrical wiring, natural gas pipes or appliances unless you have scheduled an appointment or have reported a utility problem. Also, ask utility employees for proper identification.
- Always think safety first. Do not give in to high-pressure tactics over the phone for information or in person.
Customers who are not sure if a notice they receive is legitimate should call (888) 467-2669 in Montana, or (800) 245-6977 in South Dakota and Nebraska. In addition, you can call the Federal Trade Commission at 1.877.FTC.HELP with questions or concerns.