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Utility companies warn of scam

Utilities across the country are seeing increased incidences of scams targeting residential and business customers. Residents should beware of suspicious phone calls from people asking for personal financial information.

Individuals claiming to be utility employees or collection agency personnel are using a variety of techniques to try and gain access to members’ funds, usually by indicating a member has an outstanding debt and is about to lose service. In another case of fraud, the caller tells the consumer that light bulbs in the consumer’s home are defective and may burn down the person’s house.

Dakota Electric and Minnesota Energy Resources have both issued warnings about the scam.

Unless you initiate the call, never give out Social Security numbers, credit card information or banking information to anyone who calls you, regardless of who they claim to represent.

Dakota Electric does not call members asking for financial information. If you receive a call like this, hang up immediately and contact your local police. If threatened with disconnection of service, utility customers should call their utility company directly — using the contact phone number on the utility statement — to verify their account status. Consumers should not use a number provided by the caller since it could be part of the scam.

If your account is past due, Dakota Electric will never instruct you to purchase a pre-paid credit card and will send a disconnection Notice by U.S. Mail before taking further action.