Xcel Energy is warning customers of increased incidences of scams targeting utility customers.
The scams generally involve attempts to illegally obtain payments for fictitious bills.
According to Xcel, individuals impersonating Xcel Energy representatives or collection agency personnel are utilizing a variety of techniques to gain access to customers funds, usually by indicating a customer has an outstanding debt and is about to immediately lose service.
In many of the fraudulent cases, an impersonator directs the customer to go to a local retailer and purchase a pre-paid cash card.
The impersonator then persuades the customer to provide the card number over the phone.
In some cases, impersonators provide a fake employee name and/or fake ID number, and offer to comes to the customer's residence to pick up the payment.
Impersonators also appear to have "spoofed" an Xcel Energy telephone number, thus making it look like the call is from the company.
There have been variations to obtaining the bogus payments, including requests over the phone for payment by credit card or personal check.
Impersonators also have used different stories, such as telling a customer he or she has overpaid a bill, so that the company needs personal bank account or credit card information to be given over the telephone to refund the money.
Impersonators have shown up at customer homes and told customers that their meter is broken and immediate payment is needed for repairs.
Customers are told that the utility later will refund the money.
Customers should report incidents to Xcel Energy at 1-800-895-4999.