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NorthWestern Energy continues to raise awareness of utility scams during National Consumer Protection Week

Mar 04, 2019

Butte, Mont. – It is National Consumer Protection Week, and NorthWestern Energy is continuing its efforts to educate customers on how they can guard against falling victim to imposter utility scams.

“Our Customer Service Representatives receive calls every week from customers reporting scam activity,” said NorthWestern Energy Director of Customer Interaction John Thurmond. “This is a terrible and expensive crime and the more we can do to raise awareness the better it is for all of us.”

NorthWestern Energy is a member of Utilities United Against Scams, a consortium of 125 U.S. and Canadian electric, water, and natural gas companies and their respective trade associations, which works across the industry with regulators, law enforcement, and other telecommunications partners to stop scams targeting utility customers.

In 2018, UUAS and its member companies helped to shut down more than 2,000 toll-free numbers used by scammers to target utility customers. NorthWestern Energy has successfully shutdown hundreds of the numbers with the help of customers who report the phone numbers would-be scammers tell them to call back on to make a “payment.”

“We report that number and the carrier is notified,” said Thurmond. “There is an investigation and if the number is being used for fraud, it is shut down.”

 “Organizations join Utilities United Against Scams to help protect their customers and communities against fraud, and the impact of the coalition’s efforts to combat impostor utility scams is evident,” said UUAS Executive Director Monica Martinez. “The amount of fraudulent toll-free numbers reported by utilities account for roughly half of all numbers reported. In addition to our work shutting down fraudulent toll-free numbers, UUAS also will continue to highlight the most common scam tactics and will provide resources to help utility customers better protect themselves from impostor utility scammers.”

Signs of Potential Scam Activity:

• Threat to disconnect: Scammers may aggressively tell a customer his or her utility bill is past due and service will be disconnected if a payment is not made – usually within less than an hour.

Request for immediate payment: Scammers may instruct a customer to purchase a prepaid card – widely available at retail stores – then call them back supposedly to make a bill payment to his or her utility company.

• Request for prepaid card: When the customer calls back, the caller asks the customer for the prepaid card’s number, which grants the scammer instant access to the card’s funds, and the victim’s money is gone.

How Customers Can Protect Themselves:

• Customers should never purchase a prepaid card to avoid service disconnection or shutoff. Northwestern Energy and other utility companies do not specify how customers should make a bill payment and always offer a variety of ways to pay a bill, including accepting payments online, by phone, automatic bank draft, mail, or in person.

• If someone threatens immediate disconnection or shutoff of service, customers should hang up the phone, delete the email, or shut the door. Customers with delinquent accounts receive advance disconnection notification. NorthWestern Energy and other utility companies never send a single notification one hour or less before disconnection.

• If customers suspect someone is trying to scam them, they should hang up, delete the email, or shut the door. They should call NorthWestern Energy’s customer service number, 888-467-2669 in Montana and 800-245-6977 in South Dakota and Nebraska. If customers ever feel that they are in physical danger, they should call 911.

Customers who suspect that they have been victims of fraud or who feel threatened during contact with one of these scammers, should contact local law enforcement authorities. The Federal Trade Commission’s website is also a good source of information about how to protect personal information.

About NorthWestern Energy (NYSE: NWE)
NorthWestern provides electricity and / or natural gas to approximately 726,400 customers in Montana, South Dakota, and Nebraska. We have generated and distributed electricity in South Dakota and distributed natural gas in South Dakota and Nebraska since 1923 and have generated and distributed electricity and distributed natural gas in Montana since 2002. More information on NorthWestern is available on the company’s website at

Utilities United Against Scams is a consortium of 125 U.S. and Canadian electric, water, and natural gas utilities (and their respective trade associations). UUAS is dedicated to combating impostor utility scams by providing a forum for utilities and trade associations to share data and best practices, in addition to working together to implement initiatives to inform and protect customers.

Media Contact:
Jo Dee Black
(866) 622-8081

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