Colder weather brings out this scam

By Greg Collier

Even though this is a year-round scam, it’s become more threatening as the colder weather approaches. Scammers are once again posing as power companies and threatening customers with turning off their service. Usually, the scammers will call their victim and tell them that the victim’s bill is overdue. The scammers will then claim that they’re turning off the victim’s service in 15-30 minutes if they don’t make an immediate payment. The victim will then be instructed to make the payment in a nontraditional way, such as gift cards or cryptocurrency. These methods are used because the payments made to the scammers can’t normally be recovered.

For example, a news station in Denver is reporting that scammers are posing as Xcel Energy. Xcel is one of the larger electric companies in the country, serving customers from Minnesota to New Mexico. One victim has reported that she received a call from a scammer posing as Xcel and threatening to turn off her service. As usual, the scammers demanded payment, but instead of git cards or Bitcoin, they demanded payment through the Zelle payment app. Zelle has been used in a number of scams recently. Since Zelle doesn’t offer many protections like a credit card would, scammers are able to withdraw the Zelle payment almost immediately. Thankfully, the woman recognized that this was a scam and did not lose any money.

There are a number of ways to recognize this scam. First, electric companies won’t call you and threaten you with termination of service that same day. Instead, you would receive a written notice in the mail letting you know that your balance is overdue before any termination of service happened. Secondly, no utility company is going to pressure you into making a payment with virtually anonymous methods like cryptocurrency and gift cards. Lastly, if you live in a cold weather state, your state may have a cold weather moratorium where it’s illegal for companies to turn off certain services during the colder months of the year. You can check with your state to find out when the cold weather rule is in effect.