NORTH DAKOTA (KXNET) — There have been recent reports in South Dakota and North Dakota of scammers claiming to be with Xcel Energy contacting customers by phone to try to take their money.

The company wants to remind both business and residential customers how to protect themselves from falling victim to scams.

In most scenarios, the scammer tells the customer their account is past due and service will be disconnected if a large payment isn’t made, usually within the hour.

The scammer then instructs the customer to purchase a pre-paid debit or credit card, widely available at retail stores and demands the customer to call back to supposedly make a payment to the company.

The scammers often sound professional and may also manipulate caller ID so numbers look like they’re coming from Xcel Energy.

Even when a caller sounds legitimate, here are some quick warning signs for customers:

  • Customers should be very suspicious if a caller requires a single form of payment, such as requiring the use of a pre-paid debit card. Xcel Energy offers many options for payment and will never ask a customer with a past-due account to purchase a pre-paid debit card to avoid disconnection.
  • Xcel Energy customers will initially be contacted by U.S. mail about past-due bills, not over the phone. You will also be sent a disconnection notice in writing before your power is actually turned off.
  • Customers should never wire money, or provide bank card numbers, and social security numbers to an unverified source.

If customers doubt the authenticity of someone claiming to be from Xcel Energy, and that person is asking for payment, they should hang up immediately.

They can also access their current account information online through their MyAccount Service.

Customers should then call Xcel Energy Customer Service at 1-800-895-4999 or their Business Solutions Center at 1-800-481-4700 (M-F, 8 a.m.-5 p.m.) to report the experience.

By calling these numbers, customers can count on the help of a legitimate representative.

Information provided will be shared with investigators to aid in a possible criminal investigation.

Affected customers should also contact local authorities to file a criminal complaint.

Xcel Energy’s website has much more information to help people avoid phone, email, in-person, and employment scams.