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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Minnesota Cold Weather Rule ends soon

MinneapolisApril 9, 2018 – Customers with Cold Weather Rule (CWR) payment plans should take steps to avoid having large unpaid balances become due or their natural gas service disconnected once the CWR ends April 15. The Minnesota CWR protects residential customers who are experiencing difficulties with paying their natural gas bills from having their service disconnected Oct. 15 through April 15. All customers with CWR payment plans should contact CenterPoint Energy prior to April 15 and set up a new payment plan to ensure continuation of service.

"We encourage all customers who are having trouble paying their natural gas bills or those who are at risk of having their service disconnected to contact us as soon as possible," said Brad Tutunjian, vice president of Gas Operations for CenterPoint Energy. "We can connect customers to financial resources that can help pay down natural gas bills for income-eligible customers. We can also enroll our customers in our various bill payment programs."

What does CenterPoint Energy offer qualified customers?

Additionally, customers can use CenterPoint Energy's online options to make a one-time payment, set up a payment arrangement, report a payment made at an authorized bill payment center, and have service reconnected at CenterPointEnergy.com/SelfService.

To make a payment by phone and avoid service disruption, to use the company's automated telephone options or to learn more about energy assistance, please call 1-612-372-4680 or 1-800-729-6164.

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 nearly 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, visit the website at CenterPointEnergy.com.

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CenterPoint Energy encourages safety awareness during National Safe Digging Month

Houston – April 5, 2018 As part of its ongoing safety awareness practices for safe digging, CenterPoint Energy is partnering with the Common Ground Alliance and the governors in each state the company operates to commemorate April as National Safe Digging Month.

Throughout the busy digging month of April, when the potential for underground utility damage increases, homeowners and contractors are reminded that one free call to 811 before digging can prevent injuries, property damage, service disruption and possibly costly fines for damaged infrastructure.

"Contacting 811 at least two working days before digging helps prevent damages to vital underground utilities," said Joe Berry, director of Damage Prevention for CenterPoint Energy. "By calling 811 to have the underground utility lines in their area marked, homeowners and professionals are making an important decision that can help keep them and their communities safe." 

The depth of utility lines varies and there may be multiple utility lines in a common area. Whether it's a small project, such as planting trees or shrubs, or hiring a professional for a special outdoor project, smart digging means calling 811 before each job.

Visit Call811.com for more information about 811 and the call-before-you-dig process.

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 nearly 8,000 employees, CenterPoint Energy and its predecessor companies have been in business for more than 150 years. For more information, please visit CenterPointEnergy.com.

 

CenterPoint Energy announces completion of critical electric transmission line

Houston - April 3, 2018 - CenterPoint Energy, Inc.'s (NYSE: CNP) electric utility today announced that the Brazos Valley Connection project (BVC) was energized on March 29, 2018. The 60-mile, 345-kilovolt (kV) electric transmission line is the southern portion of the Houston Import Project. Completed ahead of schedule, the BVC transmission line runs from Grimes County through Waller County, ending in Harris County, Texas. 

"We appreciate the collaboration among many individuals with whom we have worked on this project," said Kenny Mercado, senior vice president of Electric Operations, CenterPoint Energy. "Without the support of landowners, county officials, local and state agencies and environmental agencies, this project would not be the success that it is today."

CenterPoint Energy's total project capital cost is approximately $285 million, in line with the estimated range of approximately $270 to $310 million in the Public Utility Commission of Texas' original order regarding the project. The estimated impact to a residential customer within CenterPoint Energy's service territory using 1,000 kWh per month is less than $0.20 per month. 

"I'm extremely proud of the hard work our team provided to get this much-needed project online," added Mercado. "Early completion of the Brazos Valley Connection represents CenterPoint Energy's leadership in safe and efficient project execution. The project will provide safe, efficient and reliable power and help address infrastructure needs to meet the growing demand in the Houston area."

In 2014, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas identified the Houston Import Project as critical to providing additional transmission capacity to import power into the Houston area by June 2018. The entire project consists of a 130-mile, 345-kV electric transmission line running from Limestone County to Harris County.

This news release includes forward-looking statements within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. These forward-looking statements are based upon assumptions of management which are believed to be reasonable at the time made and are subject to significant risks and uncertainties. Actual events and results may differ materially from those expressed or implied by these forward-looking statements.  Any statements in this news release regarding future events, such as the estimated impact to residential customers, future economic conditions and infrastructure needs in the Houston area and any other statements that are not historical facts are forward-looking statements. Each forward-looking statement contained in this news release speaks only as of the date of this release.

CenterPoint Energy launches 2017 Corporate Responsibility Report using GRI standards

HoustonMarch 26, 2018 – CenterPoint Energy, Inc. (NYSE: CNP) today announced the release of its 2017 Corporate Responsibility Report, Stewardship through Values. The report follows the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) standards, the leading framework used by organizations to disclose environmental, social and governance (ESG) performance.

"We recognize that ESG-related areas are integral to our performance," said Scott Prochazka, president and chief executive officer of CenterPoint Energy. "To that end, we have expanded our reporting to align with the GRI framework. The theme of this year's report, Stewardship through Values, highlights our approach on environmental stewardship, enriching our communities and providing a safe, inclusive workplace."

Highlights include:

Environmental: Environmental stewardship is a critical component of the company's overall corporate responsibility approach. CenterPoint Energy has a long history of conducting its businesses in a safe, environmentally responsible manner and is committed to compliance with all applicable environmental laws and regulations.

Social: CenterPoint Energy actively works to engage with stakeholders to build trust, strengthen relationships and make a positive impact in its service territory. The company's stakeholders include individuals and groups who impact – or are impacted by – CenterPoint Energy and its business operations, such as customers, communities, employees, investors, suppliers and regulators.

Governance: Ethical conduct and good corporate governance are priorities for CenterPoint Energy's employees, leadership and board of directors. Good corporate governance, as well as a strong ethics and compliance program, are in the best interests of company stakeholders and critical to long-term success. To that end, CenterPoint Energy has implemented corporate governance and business conduct policies and procedures that reinforce our values of safety, integrity, accountability, initiative and respect.

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 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 nearly 8,000 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 sets 2018 annual meeting of shareholders

Houston – March 15, 2018 - CenterPoint Energy, Inc. (NYSE: CNP) announced that the 2018 annual meeting of shareholders will be held on Thursday, April 26, 2018, at 9 a.m. CDT in the CenterPoint Energy Tower auditorium, 1111 Louisiana Street, Houston, Texas. Shareholders who hold shares of CenterPoint Energy common stock as of March 1, 2018, will receive notice of the meeting and will be eligible to vote.

 

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 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 nearly 8,000 employees, CenterPoint Energy and its predecessor companies have been in business for more than 150 years. For more information, please visit www.CenterPointEnergy.com.