NorthWestern Energy is warning customers about a scam involving the collection of allegedly overdue utility bills. A number of businesses and residential customers in the Billings area have reported receiving suspicious collection calls in recent days.

The scam artists were active over the past weekend and unfortunately, at least three NorthWestern customers lost money to the scammers, who threaten to disconnect electric or natural gas service if immediate payment is not made. Those customers lost about $3,300.

While this type of scam activity is not new and has targeted utility customers across Montana and the nation for several years, the recent spike in scam calls is concerning. The scam calls can be very convincing. NorthWestern reminds customers to be vigilant when it comes to anyone seeking payment information on utility bills, either in person or via the telephone or Internet.

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. They often tell potential victims to purchase pre-paid debit or cash cards sold at retail outlets and to call them the scammers with the relevant numbers that allow the cards to be redeemed quickly.

If you think you have received a scam collection call, it is very helpful if you make note of the return phone number provided by the scammers and share it with NorthWestern customer service representatives. Having such phone numbers can help thwart future scam calls.

Many recent scam calls have been placed on weekends. It is important to note that NorthWestern does not disconnect service on weekends.

Customers with questions or concerns about potential scams should contact NorthWestern Energy to report concerns or questionable calls. Montana customers can contact NorthWestern at (888) 467-2669.

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.