MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — On the coldest night of the season, one of the last things you’d want to hear is you’re about to lose power.
But that’s exactly what some scam artists are calling people about, claiming to be Xcel Energy.
The number now identifies as “WIRELESS CALLER” in Brad Shafer’s cellphone call log, but earlier his caller ID told him Xcel Energy was on the line.
“The guy said he was from Xcel and that there was a crew on the way to disconnect the power at my welding shop,” Shafer said.
He was told his account was more than $300 past due and would need to bring cash to a Walgreens, where he would receive further instruction on how to pay up.
“The guy was adamant they couldn’t take electronic payment,” he said. “I was in panic mode and thank God my daughter was sitting there and she was not emotionally involved in it.”
His daughter, Macy Beckman, was eating lunch with her dad and noticed how distressed he was after the call. When Shafter explained what he was being ordered to do, she figured something wasn’t right and told him to call Xcel Energy before going through with the payment.
“I just think that’s weird. No big company would ask for cash,” Shafer said.
Once he called Xcel, Shafer was told he was nearly scammed and that he likely would have been ordered to put the cash onto a gift card at Walgreens.
“I don’t know of a credible business that does take gift cards to pay your bills,” he said.
Sometimes the scam comes as a robo-call. The scammers can make it so the caller ID says Xcel Energy, even mimicking the company’s phone number. The main difference is that Xcel’s number starts with 800, whereas the scammer number started with the 651 area code. Also, Xcel would not call a customer if the company was about to turn off the customer’s power. Instead, Xcel sends a notice in the mail.
When the scammer called back, Shafer told him he called the police.
“He hung up immediately,” Shafer said.
“I just think if you have a funny feeling about it, double check and actually call,” Beckman said.
Another reminder for customers is that Xcel doesn’t shut off a customer’s power from mid-October to mid-April. It’s to ensure Minnesotan’s don’t lose their primary heating source during winter.
Instead, Xcel will work with customers to come up with a payment plan if they are behind on payments.
For more information on common scams connected to Xcel and how to avoid the, click here.