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Power Company Scam Targets Businesses

April 30, 2014, 10:10 PM by Angela Kennecke

Power Company Scam Targets Businesses
SIOUX FALLS, SD -

It's the busiest time of the day and a restaurant gets a call that the power is being shut off if it doesn't pony up the money for the electric bill immediately. 

Lucy Welbig is the cook at Botski's Bar & Grill.  She was in the middle of a busy Saturday lunch rush when she got the call. 

"And the gentleman on the line said, ‘We have a work order from Xcel Energy to shut you down at 1 o'clock if your bill isn't paid,’" Welbig said.

That just didn't sound right to Welbig.

"And I said, ‘I know the bill was paid.’ I was standing back there when Jon O. wrote the check.  I even mailed it," Welbig said.

But she was told Xcel never got it and she had until 1 p.m. to pay up, or the power would be shut off, leaving all the customers in the dark.

"My heart was going a million miles an hour," Welbig said.

But when it came to the amount of that supposed overdue bill, something just didn't add up.

"I asked him, why was it so much more than what the bill was?  And he said, 'Well, there's a service charge. You didn't get it paid, so now you're being charged for it,’" Welbig said.

"It's our biggest bill," owner Jon Bot said. 

Bot wasn't in the bar at the time.  But Welbig wasn't waiting for him to return.

"Something wasn't right.  So I went and dug out the Xcel Energy bill and there is an 800 number on here, so I called it," Welbig said.

That's when she got a recording from Xcel Energy letting her know the whole thing was a scam. Xcel says it's seen a dramatic rise in its business customers being targeted. 

"So if someone happens to be late with a payment, you would get a notice from us through the US Postal Service.  And then a couple of months later if you still hadn't paid, and we were thinking about disconnecting, you would get a disconnect notice," Jim Wilcox of Xcel Energy said.

Wilcox says after all that, you may get a phone call.  But Xcel works hard with its customers to keep the lights on. 

"It makes me sick.  After that day, I thought what if it does happen to people and it has to happen to small businesses; they're smart. They called us when we were very vulnerable. We've got the busiest part of our day happening. We'd better take care of this," Bot said.

Bot is just glad they didn't thanks to Welbig's quick thinking. 

"I couldn't have asked for any employee to handle it any better," Bot said.

Typically the scammers ask businesses to load the money on a pre-paid credit card and give them the number or wire it.  Xcel Energy says it would never demand payment in this way.

Xcel Energy Avoiding Scams

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