COLORADO SPRINGS — Frigid temperatures, recent snowfall, and the increasing costs of utilities bills are creating the perfect climate for aggressive scam callers who are threatening to turn off people's power if they don't pay up. Southern Colorado utility companies are sending out warnings as a News5 viewer shares her experience with one of these calls.
Was your last utility bill shockingly high? That's what we're hearing from many people across southern Colorado, and we know right now thousands of people are already behind on those utility bills.
So, when winter weather hits and someone calls saying your power is going to be shut off, fraudsters know many people are more likely to listen.
"A gentleman on the phone gave his name and said he was from Black Hills Energy and said that there was a person on their way to turn off our electric," said the Pueblo resident.
Realizing you've been mislead by a scammer is often an embarrassing experience. This News5 viewer from Pueblo didn't want to be named publicly, but she wanted to share her story about an early morning utility scam phone call that caught her off guard.
"The urgency and the way he talked to me, I get that they are very good at it. It just didn't make me think the whole thing through because I kind of panicked," the Pueblo resident told News5.
The fraudster offered an option to help her keep the power on.
"So he wanted us to go to Walgreens and get their money card from Walgreens. So, when I went to Walgreens I told them it was for an electric bill and the gentleman at Walgreens was really good to tell us that this was a scam," said the Pueblo resident.
Both Black Hills Energy and Colorado Springs Utilities have recently put out warnings about an increasing number of scam calls like this one.
Watch out for anyone asking you to pay now with gift cards, cash apps, wire transfers, or cryptocurrency.
These are some of the things to keep in mind to help you avoid becoming a victim.
- Utility companies say they will not make unannounced visits or high pressure calls
- You can always call the number on your utility bill to verify information
"And I do appreciate Channel 5 because I knew that's where I could go to get this information out because I don't want somebody else in that situation. I don't want somebody else to be taken advantage of because money is too hard to come by right now," the Pueblo resident said.
Colorado Springs Utilities tells News5 in 2021 customers paid more than $11,000 to scammers and another $5,000 just since the start of the year. Also, be aware that many of the scams are now pivoting to text messaging instead of calls.
Both Black Hills Energy and Colorado Springs Utilities have resources available to help people identify scams like this and to get help with managing utility bills.
To verify whether a Black Hills Energy employee was dispatched to your location, call 1-888-890-5554. Black Hills Energy employees and contractors wear shirts with the Black Hills Energy logo, carry a company-issued photo ID and drive logoed vehicles. Employees will gladly wait outside while you call the company to verify their identity.
In light of the scam, Colorado Springs Utilities provided a list of 6 things that they will never do.
- Require customers to make payments with a credit card or prepaid gift card and claim services will be shut off if payment is not made immediately.
- Make outbound calls demanding immediate payment.
- Call requesting payment for a meter replacement.
- Call and ask for a social security number.
- Collect payments in-person at your home via cash, check or money order.
- Partner directly with any solar company.
If someone calls you claiming to be from Colorado Springs Utilities and asks you to do any of these things, you should hang up.