Xcel Energy tells customers to ‘Slam the Scam’

Awareness campaign aimed at warning energy customers, preventing scams

Xcel Energy is encouraging customers who think they are being targeted by a scammer to end the conversation by “slamming” down the phone.

The effort is part of the new “Slam the Scam” campaign in La Crosse, an awareness campaign aimed at warning energy customers and preventing scams.

Xcel Energy said scammers are targeting all customers, but particularly small businesses.

Sue Kolve, owner of Sue Kolve’s Salon and Day Spa, spoke at the launch of the campaign on Tuesday. Someone contacted her business and told her that her utility bill payment has not been received and unless she paid, her power would be shut off.

“We don’t call anybody and tell you your service is going to get turned off in the next 30 minutes,” said Patrick Boland, Xcel Energy’s manager of customer policy and assistance. “If there’s any question on their part, make sure they just hang up the phone, (then) pick up the phone and dial our customer service number and we can help them through it.”

Boland said it’s an immediate red flag if somebody calls you and says the only way that you can avoid the disconnection is to go down and buy a prepaid debit card.

“That is not the way that we do business,” Boland said.

Xcel Energy said last year in Wisconsin, some utilities reported increases of more than 300 percent in reported scams compared to 2013.

Xcel Energy said scammers have posed as energy company employees and have been known to:

Tell intended victims their accounts are past due and threaten to disconnect their electricity or natural gas service if they do not make payments immediately. Require victims to pay using a variety of pre-paid debit cards. Manipulate caller ID to display a fake number, which may actually be the energy company’s number. This is called “spoofing.”

Energy companies offer the following tips to avoid being victimized:

Never give out personal information or credit card numbers or wire money as a result of an unexpected or unsolicited call or email if you cannot validate the authenticity.
Be suspicious if the caller is insisting on the use of a pre-paid debit card or an immediate payment. Energy companies provide many options for payment.
Know that energy companies will contact customers first by U.S. mail about past due bills. A disconnection notice is sent in writing before your service is turned off
If it just doesn’t feel right, “slam the scam” and end the conversation. 
Energy companies welcome calls to verify account status. Contact your provider using a number provided on a recent bill or the company’s website.