CenterPoint Energy is urging its customers to be wary of a nationwide bill fraud scheme where crooks call customers to claim they are behind on their utility bills and must make a payment using a pre-paid debit card.
In a release, the company said those posing as employees usually request customers purchase a Green Dot pre-paid card or other reloadable debit card and then provide the serial number over the telephone to avoid having their electrical services cut off.
Given that CenterPoint Energy bills for natural gas services and does not provide electric service in Minnesota, the company says any caller posing as an employee and seeking payment for an electric bill should immediately be considered suspicious, and customers are urged to report the call to their electricity provider.
"While we have not experienced this type of activity, we want to remind customers to report any suspicious activity to their local police department, file an identity theft report and contact their bank or other financial institution(s) to report an incident," said Gregory Knight, vice president of CenterPoint Energy's Call Center.
CenterPoint Energy phone agents, both inbound and outbound, never personally request banking or credit card information over the phone. Instead, customers are transferred to an interactive voice response payment system.
Additionally, field employees carry photo identification that also clearly displays their name and they will never ask for Social Security numbers or bank data.
The Better Business Bureau of Minnesota, in conjunction with the Edison Electric Institute, are tracking the fraudulent bill collection scheme. So far, customers in at least 12 states and Washington, D.C., have been targeted.