Minnesota utilities join first ever national campaign to protect customers from scammers
2016-11-15T06:00:00Z

MINNEAPOLIS – November 15, 2016 – Gas and electric utility companies across the United States and Canada as well as the Better Business Bureau of Minnesota (BBB) are joining forces to protect customers from long-running scams targeting customers of utility service providers. Reports of phone, email billing and door to door scams are back again and represent thousands of dollars lost by customer victims. That is why Minnesota utilities are participating in the first national Utilities United Against Scams (UUAS) event and have designated November 16th as “Utilities United Against Scams Day.”  This day will be supported by a week-long campaign focused on exposing the tricks scammers use to steal money, and how customers can protect themselves.  

 “These schemes often ramp up with the change in seasons,” said Dana Badgerow, president and CEO of the BBB of Minnesota and North Dakota. “Like most scams, it plays on peoples’ fears and has proven to be quite effective, unfortunately.” 

During the phone scam, a customer receives a phone call from an individual who falsely claims to be a utility representative. The scammer warns that the utility will disconnect the customer’s electric or natural gas service if the customer fails to make a payment – usually within a short timeframe. ​

Scammers have even duplicated utilities’ telephone messages and automated response systems so when customers call phone numbers provided by the scammer it sounds legitimate. Some of these scammers also use caller ID spoofing to replicate utilities’ customer service numbers. 

 The campaign encourages the public to share these messages to help guard against scam activity.  Some Minnesota utilities experience an increase of more than 30 percent in customer scam attempts when colder temperatures set in.

Red flags for scam activity 
  • The scammer tells the customer his or her account is past due and service will be disconnected if a large payment isn’t made – usually within less than an hour. 
  • The scammer instructs the customer to purchase a pre-paid debit or credit card – widely available at retail stores – then instructs the customer to call back to supposedly make a payment to the utility.
How to protect yourself 
  • Utilities never ask or require a customer with a past due account to purchase a prepaid debit card to avoid disconnection. 
  • ​Customers with past due accounts receive an advance disconnection notification by mail– not a single notification one hour before disconnection. 
  • ​Know which utility providers serve you.
  • ​If you suspect someone is trying to scam you, hang up and call your utility at the phone number listed on your bill and report it to the BBB. Never dial the phone number the scammers provide. 
  • Customers, who suspect or experience fraud, or feel threatened during contact with one of these scams, should contact local authorities.
The utility companies of Minnesota and the BBB continue to enhance efforts to educate the public.  For the first time, in 2014, Minnesota utilities joined forces with the BBB to launch “Slam the Scam” - a coalition and awareness campaign aimed at warning customers and preventing scams.   The coalition is encouraging customers who think they are being targeted by a scammer to simply end the conversation and “slam” down the phone.  

The Better Business Bureau of Minnesota is closely tracking these types of scams.

UUAS is a collaborative effort among the electric, gas, and water utility industries to help prevent utility service fraud through education, awareness, and customer advocacy initiatives. A primary goal of this collective effort is to help customers learn how to identify and avoid utility-related scams.

You can learn more about the UUAS effort at www.eei.org including further tips and resources to help spot and avoid utility scams. 

CenterPoint Energy, Inc., headquartered in Houston, Texas, is a domestic energy delivery company that includes electric transmission & distribution, natural gas distribution and energy services operations. The company serves more than five million metered customers primarily in Arkansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Texas. The company also owns a 55.4 percent limited partner interest in Enable Midstream Partners, a publicly traded master limited partnership it jointly controls with OGE Energy Corp., which owns, operates and develops natural gas and crude oil infrastructure assets. With more than 7,400 employees, CenterPoint Energy and its predecessor companies have been in business for more than 140 years.​
some_text CenterPoint Energy

View More Tweets ›

 Recent News

 

 

CenterPoint Energy urges customers to stay safe during clean-up

HOUSTON - September 1, 2017 – The safety of our employees and our customers is our top priority. We urge customers to follow the below safety tips as clean-up efforts continue following Hurricane Harvey.

ELECTRIC SAFETY TIPS

Stay away from downed power lines. Be especially mindful of downed lines that could be hidden in flood waters and debris, and treat all downed lines as if they are energized or “live.” Boats being used in high water can expose you to danger from power lines at their normal height. Be aware and stay away. DO NOT attempt to remove a tree limb or other debris from a power line. Once away from the area, call 713-207-2222 and we will respond as soon as it is safe.

Power restoration

• If you find that water has risen above your electrical outlets, you must call a licensed electrician before you turn on the main circuit breaker or turn on the power for any connected appliances, such as televisions, computers and more.

• Your electrician will assess the damage and will then need to ensure that your home’s electrical system is safe to receive power.

• Your electrician may need to either call CenterPoint Energy or direct you to call us at 713-207-2222 to ensure that it is safe to perform electrical work. CenterPoint Energy may temporarily disconnect service to your home to allow work to be performed.

• Even if you or your electrician calls and asks us to remotely disconnect service, there still could be voltage present. Therefore, we will ask the electrician and you to confirm you want us to proceed before going forward, and will remind you to take precautions around your breakers.

• CenterPoint Energy is responsible for and will make repairs to the electric delivery system up to where it connects to your home or business. However, you are responsible for repairs if there is damage to the meter box or weatherhead (where the line enters your home through a pipe).

• If the meter box or weatherhead is damaged, our crews will not be able to re-establish service. If in doubt, contact a licensed electrician now to make an inspection and any necessary repairs.

Appliance and equipment safety

• All electrical appliances and electronic equipment that have been submerged in water must be dried thoroughly for at least one week. Then, you should have them checked by a qualified repair professional before turning them on.

• Do not try to repair a flood-damaged appliance as it could result in electrical shock or death. Attempting to restart it could result in further damage and costly repairs. Page 2 of 2 For more information contact Olivia Ross 713.207.3288 24-hour media access 713.619.5143 For Immediate Release

• If the outside unit of your air conditioning system has been under water, the controls may have mud and water accumulated in them. Have the unit inspected by a qualified air conditioning technician before using it.

• Never connect a portable electric generator or a motor home/RV generator directly to your home’s electrical system during a power outage. Electricity could back feed into the power lines and endanger repair workers.

Call 811 before any digging is started – it’s the law. Striking buried utility lines can cause serious injury or death. Alert participating utility companies, such as electric, gas, cable and phone about planned digging so they can mark the appropriate location of their underground lines. Please be prepared for a longer than usual wait time during the next few weeks, and do not dig until the lines have been marked.

NATURAL GAS SAFETY TIPS

• Do not turn off your natural gas service at the meter; doing so could allow water to enter the natural gas lines.

• Be alert for the smell of natural gas - It smells like rotten eggs. If you do smell natural gas, leave the area immediately on foot and tell others to leave, too.

• Do NOT turn on your lights, smoke, strike a match, use a cell phone or operate anything that might cause a spark, including a flashlight or a generator.

• Do not attempt to turn natural gas valves on or off. Once you are safely away from the area, call 911 and 888-876-5786. Once it is safe, CenterPoint Energy will send a trained service technician.

• If your home was flooded, call a licensed plumber or gas appliance technician to inspect your appliances and gas piping to make sure they are in good operating condition before calling CenterPoint Energy to reconnect service. This includes outdoor gas appliances including pool heaters, gas grills and gas lights.

Call 811 before any digging is started – it’s the law. Striking buried utility lines can cause serious injury or death. Alert participating utility companies, such as electric, gas, cable and phone about planned digging so they can mark the appropriate location of their underground lines. Please be prepared for a longer than usual wait time during the next few weeks, and do not dig until the lines have been marked.

• Be aware of where your natural gas meter is located. As debris is put out for heavy trash pickup, make sure it is placed away from the meter. In many areas the meter may be located near the curb. If debris is near a gas meter, the mechanized equipment used by trash collectors could pull up the meter, damaging it and causing a potentially hazardous situation. If this happens, leave the area immediately and call CenterPoint Energy at 888- 876-5786.

• Visit CenterPointEnergy.com/StormCenter for natural gas safety tips and other resources.

###

CenterPoint Energy donates $1.25 million to assist Hurricane Harvey recovery and relief efforts

Houston – Sept. 1, 2017 – CenterPoint Energy today announced that it is committing $1.25 million to Hurricane Harvey recovery and relief efforts. CenterPoint Energy’s contributions include a $250,000 donation each to the American Red Cross for Hurricane Harvey relief efforts, the City of Houston Mayor’s Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund and the United Way of Greater Houston disaster relief efforts.

“Our thoughts are with everyone impacted by this unprecedented catastrophe,” said Scott Prochazka, president and chief executive officer of CenterPoint Energy. “CenterPoint Energy has been a part of these communities for more than 150 years. The safety and well-being of our communities and employees impacted by Hurricane Harvey remain our top priorities.”

CenterPoint Energy is also donating $300,000 to support employees across its service territory significantly impacted by the storm. The company has also established an employee assistance fund, CenterPoint Energy Employees 1st Fund, to collect employee donations and match them up to a total of $200,000. “We take pride in lending a helping hand to those in need, which is a core part of our culture,” added Prochazka.

In addition to the charitable contributions, employee volunteerism is an important part of CenterPoint Energy’s role in communities throughout its service territory. Employee volunteers provide their time and energy to assist with altruistic initiatives. In 2016, employees, retirees and their families and friends contributed 237,500 hours to their communities, and the company donated more than 2,000 grants to qualified nonprofit organizations.

CenterPoint Energy, Inc., headquartered in Houston, Texas, is a domestic energy delivery company that includes electric transmission & distribution, natural gas distribution and energy services operations. The company serves more than five million metered customers primarily in Arkansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Texas. The company also owns 54.1 percent of the common and subordinated units representing limited partner interests in Enable Midstream Partners, a publicly traded master limited partnership it jointly controls with OGE Energy Corp., which owns, operates and develops natural gas and crude oil infrastructure assets. With more than 7,700 employees, CenterPoint Energy and its predecessor companies have been in business for more than 150 years. For more information, please visit www.CenterPointEnergy.com.

###

CenterPoint Energy awards grants to communities for safety initiatives
Minneapolis - Aug. 28, 2017 - CenterPoint Energy’s Community Partnership Grant Program awards grants to local communities to fund safety-related equipment and projects.  The company recently awarded several communities grants that will be used to serve the communities. They are listed below:

 

Date Given ​City ​Grant Amount GivenSafety Related Equipment/Project
​8/28/17 ​ ​ ​ ​ ​​Luverne​$495​Emergency communication equipment
​Mankato​$2,500​Firefighter protective hoods
​Mounds View​$495​First aid training equipment
​Paynesville​$2,500​Squad car portable radios

 

“Safety is one of CenterPoint Energy’s core values. Through the Community Partnership Grant program CenterPoint Energy has partnered with communities supporting our shared commitment to safety while delivering a safe, reliable natural gas service for over 150 years. Over the past 14 years, CenterPoint Energy has contributed $1.5 million toward safety initiatives in our communities,” said Jean Krause, Community Relations Director for CenterPoint Energy. “These grants help us stay connected with our emergency officials and aid them in keeping our neighbors and communities safe. “

To see what CenterPoint Energy is doing in the community, please visit our 2016 Corporate Responsibility Report.

CenterPoint Energy, Inc., headquartered in Houston, Texas, is a domestic energy delivery company that includes electric transmission & distribution, natural gas distribution and energy services operations. The company serves more than five million metered customers primarily in Arkansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Texas. The company also owns a 55.4 percent limited partner interest in Enable Midstream Partners, a publicly traded master limited partnership it jointly controls with OGE Energy Corp., which owns, operates and develops natural gas and crude oil infrastructure assets. With more than 7,400 employees, CenterPoint Energy and its predecessor companies have been in business for more than 150 years. The utility also operates a non-regulated business in Minnesota called Home Service Plus®. For more information, visit the website at CenterPointEnergy.com.

CenterPoint Energy assessing damage, restoring power following Hurricane Harvey

​Crews have restored power to more than 175,000 customers in the last 24 hours; Keep phone lines open for electric and gas emergency calls only; Estimated electric restoration times will be provided once assessments are completed; Natural gas system in Houston area is functioning normally; Not yet safe for crews to assess natural gas system in Victoria, Texas area

Houston – Aug. 26, 2017 – CenterPoint Energy has restored power to more than 175,000 customers throughout its service territory over the last 24 hours. Of the 2.4 million CenterPoint Energy customers, more than 98 percent currently have power, and approximately 22,000 are without power as of 12 p.m.

“While our electric system is performing well, patience will be key as some areas will be difficult for our crews to safely access due to flooding, tornado warnings and other safety-related issues,” said Kenny Mercado, senior vice president of Electric Operations for CenterPoint Energy. “We’ve also called in additional external contract resources to support our restoration efforts and have established a staging site in Fort Bend County. Additional sites are being evaluated at this time.”

“Customers do not need to call us to report outages,” he added. “Our smart meters tell us which customers are out. We ask that everyone please keep phone lines open for electric or gas emergency calls only.”

Scott Doyle, senior vice president of Natural Gas Distribution, said, “Our natural gas distribution system in the greater Houston area is functioning normally; however, crews are responding to gas leak calls in Sinton, Texas, near Corpus Christi, primarily due to toppled trees which have uprooted gas lines.

“Customers need to call us if they smell natural gas or see a damaged line,” he added. “It is not yet safe for crews to assess our gas system in Victoria, Texas; we will begin our assessments as soon as it is safe to do so.”

For latest information on power outages*:

*Please note that some outage notifications may be delayed. Due to the unpredictable nature of Hurricane Harvey, estimated restoration times on Outage Tracker and Power Alert Service are not being provided at this time.

The company urges the public to follow these important electric and natural gas safety tips:

Electric

  • Stay away from downed power lines. Be especially mindful of downed lines that could be hidden in flood waters and treat all downed lines as if they are energized.
  • If you experience flooding and water has risen above the electrical outlets in your home, contact a licensed electrician before turning on the main circuit breaker or trying to restore power.
  • All electrical appliances and electronic equipment that have been submerged in water need to dry thoroughly for at least one week. Then, have them checked by a qualified repair person before turning them on. Attempting to repair a flood-damaged appliance could result in electrical shock or death. Attempting to restart it could result in further damage and costly repairs.
  • If the outside unit of an air conditioning system has been under water, mud and water may have accumulated in the controls. Have the unit checked by a qualified air conditioning technician.

Natural Gas

  • Do not turn off your natural gas service at the meter; doing so could allow water to enter the natural gas lines.
  • Be alert for the smell of natural gas. If you smell gas, leave the area immediately on foot and tell others to leave, too.
  • If you smell gas, do not turn the lights on or off, smoke, strike a match, use a cell phone or operate anything that might cause a spark, including a flashlight or a generator.
  • Do not attempt to turn natural gas valves on or off. Once safely away from the area, call 888-876-5786 and CenterPoint Energy will send a trained service technician.
  • If your home was flooded, call a licensed plumber or gas appliance technician to inspect your appliances and gas piping to make sure they are in good operating condition before calling CenterPoint Energy to reconnect service. This includes outdoor gas appliances including pool heaters, gas grills and gas lights.
  • Before cleaning debris, digging on your property or to locate underground natural gas lines and other underground utility lines, call 811, the nationwide Call Before You Dig number.
  • Be aware of where your natural gas meter is located. As debris is put out for heavy trash pickup, make sure it is placed away from the meter. In many areas the meter may be located near the curb. If debris is near a gas meter, the mechanized equipment used by trash collectors could pull up the meter, damaging it and causing a potentially hazardous situation. If this happens, leave the area immediately and call CenterPoint Energy at 888-876-5786.
CenterPoint Energy awards grants to communities for safety initiatives

Minneapolis – Aug. 23, 2017 – CenterPoint Energy’s Community Partnership Grant Program awards grants to local communities to fund safety-related equipment and projects. The company recently awarded the City of Jordan a $2,300 grant for a pole mounted solar powered electric speed sign that will be used to serve the community.

“Safety is one of CenterPoint Energy’s core values. Through the Community Partnership Grant program CenterPoint Energy has partnered with communities supporting our shared commitment to safety while delivering a safe, reliable natural gas service for over 150 years. Over the past 14 years, CenterPoint Energy has contributed $1.5 million toward safety initiatives in our communities,” said Jean Krause, Community Relations Director for CenterPoint Energy. “These grants help us stay connected with our emergency officials and aid them in keeping our neighbors and communities safe. “

To see what CenterPoint Energy is doing in the community, please visit our 2016 Corporate Responsibility Report.

CenterPoint Energy, Inc., headquartered in Houston, Texas, is a domestic energy delivery company that includes electric transmission & distribution, natural gas distribution and energy services operations. The company serves more than five million metered customers primarily in Arkansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Texas. The company also owns a 55.4 percent limited partner interest in Enable Midstream Partners, a publicly traded master limited partnership it jointly controls with OGE Energy Corp., which owns, operates and develops natural gas and crude oil infrastructure assets. With more than 7,400 employees, CenterPoint Energy and its predecessor companies have been in business for more than 150 years. The utility also operates a non-regulated business in Minnesota called Home Service Plus®. For more information, visit the website at CenterPointEnergy.com.