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.​
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CenterPoint Energy linemen head east to help with aftermath of Hurricane Michael

Houston – Oct. 10, 2018 – This morning, more than 100 CenterPoint Energy linemen, contractors and support personnel departed for Florida to assist Gulf Power with anticipated power outages resulting from Hurricane Michael.

Crews are expected to arrive to their destination on Thursday and will work 12- to 16-hour days restoring power. "Our thoughts are with those in the path of Hurricane Michael," said Steve Greenley, vice president of Distribution Operations for CenterPoint Energy. "Once the storm has passed, our dedicated team will work to restore service as safely and quickly as possible."

CenterPoint Energy is also sending transmission crews to help with repairs. "Our transmission crews will help repair high-voltage power lines so electricity can be distributed to homes and businesses in the impacted areas," said Martin Narendorf, vice president of High Voltage Operations for CenterPoint Energy.

CenterPoint Energy is part of electric utility mutual assistance programs which provide access to thousands of linemen and tree trimmers from around the country to lend a hand during widespread power outage emergencies. Over the years, CenterPoint Energy crews have restored power to hundreds of thousands of customers throughout the country who were left in the dark following hurricanes, ice storms, tornadoes and severe thunderstorms.

For updates, follow CenterPoint Energy on Facebook and Twitter.

CenterPoint Energy provides important flood safety tips

Minneapolis – Oct. 09, 2018 – With flooding expected in parts of Minnesota, CenterPoint Energy reminds residents of some important natural gas safety tips.

Before a flood:

  • Do not turn off natural gas at the meter. The gas meter should be left on to maintain proper pressure in the gas piping within the house and to prevent water from entering the lines should flooding occur.
  • If a customer wishes to discontinue gas service, the gas should be turned off at each appliance.

After a flood:

  • If your home was flooded and your natural gas meter was underwater, call CenterPoint Energy to schedule an inspection. The meter may need to be replaced.
  • Have flooded appliances inspected by a qualified technician, like HSP before operating the equipment.  This includes outdoor gas appliances such as pool heaters, gas grills and gaslights.
  • If your home did not flood and your natural gas is turned off at the meter, call CenterPoint Energy to reconnect service.
    • Be alert for leaking gas as you return to your home or business. If you smell gas, leave the area immediately on foot and tell others to do the same.
    • Do not turn the lights on or off, smoke, strike a match, use a cell phone or operate anything that may cause a spark, including a flashlight or driving your car.
    • Do not attempt to turn natural gas valves on or off.
    • Once safely away from the area, call the 24 hours emergency gas leak hot line number 1-800-296-9815 and 911 to report the location and description of the leak.

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 54.0 percent of the common units representing limited partner interests in Enable Midstream Partners, LP, a publicly traded master limited partnership it jointly controls with OGE Energy Corp. Enable Midstream Partners, LP owns, operates and develops natural gas and crude oil infrastructure assets. With more than 8,000 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, please visit CenterPointEnergy.com.

Call CenterPoint Energy now for Cold Weather Rule protection

Minneapolis – Oct. 08, 2018 – CenterPoint Energy is reminding customers about certain rights and their responsibilities as it relates to the Cold Weather Rule (CWR). The CWR protects residential customers who are experiencing difficulty paying their natural gas bill from having their natural gas service disconnected between Oct. 15, 2018 and April 15, 2019.

While the CWR does not prevent customers from being disconnected for nonpayment, it does provide customers with extra protection as defined in the CWR. However, residential customers must contact CenterPoint Energy to set up a payment plan.

"The Minnesota Cold Weather Rule isn't just for customers who may have trouble paying their natural gas bill during cold winter months," said Brad Tutunjian, vice president of CenterPoint Energy Gas Operations in Minnesota.  "It is also there for customers whose service is currently disconnected.  If you are a customer in this position, I urge you to call us now to set up a payment plan under the rule. We can work together to create a payment plan so that you get service throughout the heating season."

Customers who anticipate having trouble paying their entire natural gas bill, have received a Notice of Proposed Disconnection, or need gas service reconnected are all urged to call CenterPoint Energy to establish a payment plan. A payment plan will include what is owed and the amount to be billed. The plan will also take into consideration a customer's financial situation and any other special circumstances. The plan must be agreeable to both the customer and CenterPoint Energy. If an agreed-upon payment plan cannot be reached, customers have a right to appeal under the CWR.

Under the CWR, special payment terms are available to customers who:

  • Apply for and receive Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) funding assistance in Minnesota; or
  • Meet income guidelines set by the state of Minnesota and provide proof of income.

Other helpful information:

  • In addition to calling CenterPoint Energy to discuss and establish a payment plan, company representatives are available to refer customers to social service agencies who may have energy assistance funds;
  • Customers interested in helping others pay their natural gas bill can support the Salvation Army's HeatShare program. Visit The Salvation Army's website to make a donation.

Call CenterPoint Energy to set up a payment plan at 1-612-372-4680 or 1-800-729-6164. For additional information, please visit CenterPointEnergy.com/ReadyForWinter.

 

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 54.0 percent of the common units representing limited partner interests in Enable Midstream Partners, LP, a publicly traded master limited partnership it jointly controls with OGE Energy Corp. Enable Midstream Partners, LP owns, operates and develops natural gas and crude oil infrastructure assets. With more than 8,000 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, please visit CenterPointEnergy.com.

CenterPoint Energy Inc. announces closing of $1.5 billion senior notes offering

Houston - Oct. 5, 2018 - CenterPoint Energy, Inc. (NYSE: CNP) today announced the closing of its offering and sale of $1.5 billion of senior notes comprised of $500 million aggregate principal amount of 3.60% senior notes due 2021, $500 million aggregate principal amount of 3.85% senior notes due 2024; and $500 million aggregate principal amount of 4.25% senior notes due 2028.

CenterPoint Energy intends to use the net proceeds from the offering to finance a portion of the cash consideration payable by CenterPoint Energy in connection with its pending merger with Vectren Corporation (Vectren Merger), as well as a portion of the related fees and expenses. If for any reason the Vectren Merger is not completed on or prior to Oct. 31, 2019, CenterPoint Energy will be required to redeem all of the senior notes at a redemption price equal to 101% of the principal amount of the senior notes plus accrued and unpaid interest, if any, to, but excluding the date of redemption.

Goldman Sachs & Co. LLC, Morgan Stanley, Mizuho Securities, MUFG and RBC Capital Markets served as joint bookrunners. Additional joint book-running managers were PNC Capital Markets LLC, Regions Securities LLC, TD Securities and US Bancorp. Senior co-managers were BNY Mellon Capital Markets, LLC and Comerica Securities. Guggenheim Securities, LLC and Loop Capital Markets served as co-managers.

This news release does not constitute an offer to sell, or the solicitation of any offer to buy, any security and shall not constitute an offer, solicitation or sale in any jurisdiction in which such offering would be unlawful.

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 54.0 percent of the common units representing limited partner interests in Enable Midstream Partners, LP, a publicly traded master limited partnership it jointly controls with OGE Energy Corp. Enable Midstream Partners, LP owns, operates and develops natural gas and crude oil infrastructure assets. With more than 8,000 employees, CenterPoint Energy and its predecessor companies have been in business for more than 150 years.

This press release includes forward-looking statements that are not historical facts. Actual events and results may differ materially from those projected. Forward-looking statements in this press release include, but are not limited to, the use of proceeds from the offering and the Vectren Merger.  Factors that could affect actual results include, but are not limited to, the factors discussed in CenterPoint Energy's Annual Report on Form 10-K for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2017, CenterPoint Energy's Quarterly Reports on Form 10-Q for the quarters ended March 31, 2018, and June 30, 2018, and CenterPoint Energy's other SEC filings.

Factors that could affect the company's ability to complete the Vectren Merger include, but are not limited to, the satisfaction of the conditions to the Vectren Merger discussed in the prospectus supplement and accompanying base prospectus and other factors discussed in the company's SEC filings.

CenterPoint Energy partners with Akin Gump for Houston Volunteer Lawyers-sponsored will clinic

Houston – Oct. 3, 2018 – As part of its ongoing commitment to community involvement, CenterPoint Energy partnered with Akin Gump, a leading international law firm, to provide pro bono will preparation services to Houston residents at a recent Houston Volunteer Lawyers Will Clinic sponsored in partnership with the City of Houston Department of Neighborhoods.

Through the will clinic, lawyers from CenterPoint Energy and Akin Gump's Houston office collaborated to provide will preparation services to more than 30 Houstonians in need. The will signing took place on Thurs., Sept.13, in the historically significant Emancipation Cultural Center. The center is located in the park of the same name that was established by African American Houstonians in the 1870s as a home for Juneteenth celebrations of the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation.

"CenterPoint Energy's Legal Department participates in a number of volunteer events each year. We are especially proud to support Mayor Turner's 'Complete Communities' initiative and the important work performed by Houston Volunteer Lawyers," said Monica Karuturi, vice president and AGC of Corporate and Securities for CenterPoint Energy. "We are also grateful for the generous support of Akin Gump, our partner in this community service."  

Akin Gump Partner Robert Shearer, who led Akin Gump's participation in the clinic, added, "We have been thrilled to partner with our client, CenterPoint Energy, and a great organization like Houston Volunteer Lawyers to be able to provide meaningful assistance to residents of Houston."

Houston Volunteer Lawyers serves as the pro bono legal aid arm of the Houston Bar Association, and helps thousands of people across the Houston area each year with their most pressing legal needs. This will clinic is one of several that the organization will sponsor in underserved communities throughout Houston this year.

The clinic is part of Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner's "Complete Communities" initiative for the City of Houston, an initiative aimed at improving neighborhoods so that all of Houston's residents and business owners can have access to quality services and amenities.

About CenterPoint Energy

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 54.0 percent of the common units representing limited partner interests in Enable Midstream Partners, LP, a publicly traded master limited partnership it jointly controls with OGE Energy Corp. Enable Midstream Partners, LP owns, operates and develops natural gas and crude oil infrastructure assets. With more than 8,000 employees, CenterPoint Energy and its predecessor companies have been in business for more than 150 years.

About Akin Gump

Founded in 1945, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP is a leading international law firm with more than 900 lawyers in offices throughout the United States, Europe, Asia and the Middle East.