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Phone Scam Targets Bemidji-Area Utility Customers

On Tuesday, June 5, several Bemidji area businesses received calls from scammers looking to gain sensitive financial information or money from these businesses. Those receiving these calls were told their electrical service would be disconnected if payment was not received within a certain time frame.

Beltrami Electric Cooperative does not utilize call centers in foreign countries to conduct business, as their customer service representatives are based at the Co-op's headquarters in Bemidji. The local businesses did the right thing by hanging up on the caller and then contacting Beltrami Electric. Beltrami Electric does call its members when needed, so if you do receive a call and are not 100% sure it's an actual representative from your utility, you are encouraged to hang-up and call the Co-op back at the number listed on your monthly statement, which is 218-444-2540.

Protecting personal and financial consumer data is a top priority for utilities such as Beltrami Electric, and they all are working to provide solutions to protect the public from scams.

3 COMMON SCAM SIGNS:

• Threat to disconnect service immediately

• Request for Immediate payment

• Request to purchase prepaid debit card

Utilities want consumers to know how to identify a scam. If they are behind on their bills, they will receive a written notice before service disconnection. Consumers who have not received a disconnection notice in the mail should not engage anyone on the phone or by email demanding to take payment. Instead, consumers should hang up and contact their respective utilities to verify account status and report the attempted scam. They are also encouraged to report the incident to local law enforcement. Utilities offer the following tips to avoid being victimized:

• Never give out personal information or credit card numbers or wire money as a result of an unexpected or unsolicited call or email if you cannot validate the authenticity.

• Be suspicious if the caller is insisting on the use of a pre-paid debit card or an immediate payment. Utilities provide many options for payment and will never ask or require a consumer with a delinquent account to purchase a prepaid debit card to avoid service disruption.

• Know that your utility will contact consumers first by U.S. mail about past due bills. You will be sent a disconnection notice in writing before your service is turned off.

• If it just doesn't feel right, "slam the scam" and end the conversation.

• Your utility will welcome the call to verify your account status. Contact your utility using a number provided on a recent bill or the utility's website.

Beltrami Electric Cooperative wants to make sure consumers avoid any and all types of scams that could put their financial information in jeopardy. If you have any questions of would like more information about how you can protect yourself from scammers, call us, or visit our website at http://www.beltramielectric.com

 

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