Business Owner Targeted In Xcel Energy Phone Scam
"Right away I thought it was real"
In today’s world you can pay your bills through apps, over the phone and online, making the process easier and faster.
But with the ease comes the potential for scams, and that potential is hitting small business owners here in the Sioux Empire.
“When you get a call out of the blue not expecting anything and you’ve never had a problem and this comes up, it just kind of alarms you,” says Heritage Funeral Home Director Matt Pepper referring to a surprising phone call he received regarding his energy bill.
“It was someone saying they were from Xcel Energy, saying we hadn’t paid our phone bill for three months or so, and I was supposed to call this 1-800 number to verify that I hadn’t, and give them a credit card number to pay it,” explains Pepper.
The business owner says while he knew he paid his previous bills, the call was very convincing.
“I got the same exact music and prompts that you would get if you called the real Xcel 1-800 number,” says Pepper.
He says the impersonator knew all of his information, including the amount of money he typically owes each month.
“I said how much do I owe you, and I looked back and at the last three months and he was almost spot on as to what our bill was,” says Pepper; and he acted like he genuinely cared.
“He seemed concerned and said I don’t want to have to turn off your electricity, but you have until the end of the month if you don’t pay this bill,” says Pepper, until there was a big red flag.
“I said can you give me our account number with you so that we’re talking to the right place, well, at this point we got disconnected,” says Pepper.
That’s when Pepper called the 1-800 number on his bill statement and a manager told him there’s a big scam going on in the Midwest.
“My concern was what if they contact senior citizens and ask for their credit card and say ‘we will turn off your energy if you don’t pay’, when it was never meant to be turned off in the first place,” says Pepper.
Xcel Energy says this does happen.
The company says customers have reported receiving similar calls, being told their electricity will be turned off.
However, Xcel Energy says they will never call if an account is in danger of disconnection, they will mail a notice instead.
For a list of tips on how to avoid becoming a victim of a phone scam visit Xcel Energy’s website.