“We joined SCCA to learn from and work with other successful businesses in the Seward neighborhood.”
SCCA Member: Jim Welna, Welna II Hardware

Scam Artist Posing as Xcel Representative

Business owners beware! Local businesses are being solicited as targets in what’s known as a utility shut-off scam. This past March, local business Jim’s Barber Shop, received a call from an individual with a foreign accent, posing as an Xcel Energy representative. This person stated that Jim’s Barber Shop had to pay nearly $500 to avoid having his power turned off. and instructed the owner to purchase a specific type of untraceable money order, and call back within the hour with the money order number.

Jim came into Redesign to discuss this inquiry, and after determining the phone call to be a scam, Redesign reported the phone call to the Attorney General’s office. Their Office responded with some helpful information to keep individuals and businesses informed and equipped to identify and help stop scams like these.

First, in a utility shut-off scam, a individual will call an organization acting as a representative from the organization’s utility provider (Xcel), claiming that it owes a debt and threatening to shut-off its power. The scam artist will usually ask the organization to pay immediately via wire transfer or prepaid card. They may also ask that your business sign a new contract. In most cases, the callers have recorded the automated greeting from the Xcel 1-800 number, so that if you call the number back, it sounds legitimate.

Second, scam artists targeting businesses in the community is nothing new. SCCA reported on the scam earlier this past fall (click here for the report), and Xcel put out a press release in 2013 warning Minneapolis business owners of such scams.

Third, it is important to note that scams like these are a crime. The community has the power to have these criminal acts investigated and prosecuted. If you receive a call similar to the description above, you should contact both SCCA and the attorney general. As much info as you can take down from the call (numbers they call from, specific instructions if they give you any) the better, but after the initial call, authorities encourage you to just hang up if they try you again – and they may be persistent! Thanks to Jim for keeping us in the loop on this ongoing problem.

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