BUTTE – The NorthWestern Energy call center in Butte has received more than 80 reports Wednesday from across Montana of scammer attempting to extort customers.
Utility officials said in a Wednesday news release that callers are threatening to shut off service unless immediate payment is made on bills.
One call came to a government office in Stillwater County. He claimed he had an emergency and was from the utility company, and when told he’d reached a government office, hung up.
“The scammers are telling people their electricity or gas service will be cut off in 30 seconds if payment isn’t made,” said Terri Lewis, NorthWestern Energy customer care supervisor in Butte. “They are nice at first and then get upset when people ask questions. They are very convincing.”
The scammers typically tell customers that their electric or natural gas bill is overdue and service will be shut off if payment is not made quickly. In some cases, they tell potential victims to purchase pre-paid debit or cash cards sold at retail outlets and to call the scammers with the relevant numbers that allow the cards to be redeemed quickly.
NorthWestern does not call customers and demand immediate payment of past-due bills. The utility will provide multiple past-due notices before terminating service. If you get a cancellation notification, always verify it by dialing the customer service number on your utility bill. Don’t supply any personal information unless you are sure you are indeed working with the utility. NorthWestern never asks customers to use a prepaid debit card for payment.
Montana customers can call NorthWestern at 888-467-2669 if they suspect a scam.