Xcel Energy warns of new scam using legitimate 1-800 number for customer service

Problem Solvers

DENVER — A local family caught scammers trying to impersonate Xcel Energy employees.

Xcel  says it just started hearing about the scam in December. It targets customers with power meters. About 1.5 million customers have these power meters in Colorado.

Shoshanna French got an early morning call last week from a person claiming to be an Xcel technician.

“They told you you’d be without power until Monday, so that’s what had me freaked out,” French said, adding, “What do you mean you’re taking my meter. I’m going to be with power without 72 hours?”

French says the fake technician said he was on his way to her home to remove her old power meter but she would need to pay a deposit before she could get a replacement.

“’Why would Xcel give you a work order to take it off and not to put a new one on?’ I said that to him,” French said.

When French started getting weary, the scammer gave her a number for a supervisor — a number that also comes up on Xcel’s customer service page and sounded just like them.

“Anyone in Denver who ever called Xcel knows the songs,” French said.

“That’s the scariest part of this,” said Christopher Cardenas, vice president of customer care at Xcel. “These scammers are getting very sophisticated. They are able to spoof our 1-800 number and even our (interactive voice response).”

Cardenas says Xcel would never reach out to a customer to ask for money in order to change a meter.

Through Xcel’s “smart meter” program, swapping out a meter is free and there is no deposit.

“(The scammer) said, ‘We don’t take credit cards,’ and I was like, ‘This is a scam’,” French said.

French called the scammers on their bluff before it was too late. However, the Better Business Bureau says the average loss for a victim of a utility scam is $500.

“Just keep your ears and eyes open. Make sure your parents know, make sure your grandparents know, so people don’t fall prey to this,” French said.

Xcel says you need to keep an ear out for three red flags: any talk about prepaid cards, providing personal account information and threatening to disconnect service.

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