BUTTE, Mont. -

The following is a press release from NorthWestern Energy:

NorthWestern Energy is again warning residential and business customers about a scam involving collection on allegedly overdue utility bills. Customers across Montana, often small businesses, have been the targets of the most recent scam attempts. Activity has been focused in Billings, Great Falls and Helena and Bozeman this past week. 

There have been instances of business owners and other customers making payments to scam artists. In the past week, customers have lost more than $2,000 in connection with this criminal activity. 

Across the nation and in Montana, other utilities have reported similar activity. The phone callers typically seek immediate payment of “overdue” utility bills, often demanding credit-card numbers or other form of payment that can be quickly converted to cash. In recent incidents, callers have asked for prepaid debit cards issued by retailers, payment via PayPal or other form of payment that prevents recovery of money by scam victims. 

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 phone callers can be convincing. They might use “spoofing” software that lets them falsely display the name and phone number of the utility company on the recipient’s Caller ID. 

NorthWestern will provide several 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. 

Customers with questions or concerns about potential scams should contact NorthWestern Energy to report possible scams or questionable or business offers. Montana customers can contact NorthWestern at (888) 467-2669. In South Dakota and Nebraska, customers should call (800) 245-6977. 

The Federal Trade Commission is also investigating utility scams and works with consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive or unfair business practices and to provide information to stop such activities. The FTC can be contacted at 1-877-FTC-HELP or (1-877-382-4357).