In the wake of a new scam, NorthWestern Energy (NWE) is reminding the public that it does not call and demand payment from customers, despite what perpetrators of a new "meter change" scam want you to believe.
Customers in Montana have reported a scam where a caller leaves a message with a number to call back, saying a customer's meter will be changed shortly. When the call is returned, the scammer says service will be disconnected if a fee is not immediately paid.
The utility said in a press release that the scam and phone number have been reported to law enforcement. The utility reminds customers not to provide any personal information if you're not certain you're actually speaking with NWE.
NWE provided the following information to help identify and protect against 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 demand that customers pay their bill immediately or risk having their service disconnected.
- Request for prepaid card: Scammers may ask customers to purchase a pre-paid card and call back with the card’s information. 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.
You can reach the NorthWestern Energy call center at 888-467-2669. If you are threatened by a scammer, report that threat to local law enforcement.