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Fraud Watch: Scammers use utility bill to try and take your money

HELENA – Scammers never seem to take a season off and with winter around the corner, there is another way these imposters are trying to get your money.

Now, you could get a phone call, email or even text message from someone claiming to be a utility company.

“Saying they’re behind on their bill. The scammer will threaten to shut off their power if they don’t pay immediately over the phone,” explained Ryan Sullivan, investigator with the Montana Department of Justice’s Office of Consumer Protection.

These scammers play on your fear, knowing no one wants to have their power turned off but Sullivan reminded everyone, “A utility company would never call and threaten to shut off your power; the consumer is going to receive notice in the mail.”

Sometimes these calls can be hard to recognize as what they are – a scam.

Sullivan said last year there were between 200 and 300 utility scams in Montana alone. So knowing the red flags could potentially save you money.

“If you get any call in reference to a western union or money gram or reloadable debit cards, those are the red flags to look for,” he said.

When in doubt, remember one simple thing.

“If they do ever receive a phone call like this, the most important thing is to hang up. Call the number on your utility bill and if you still have questions, call the office of consumer protection,” Sullivan added.

The Montana Office of Consumer Protection can be reached at 406-444-4500 or 1-800-481-6896. Click here for their full website.