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Phone Scam

Utilities are raising awareness about scams targeting consumers

By Tracy Warren, NRECA

When a scammer called Florida pet clinic operator Cindy Evers last year and demanded immediate payment on an overdue electric bill, it sounded real. “They knew my account number and gave me a figure that I owed that’s close to what I usually pay on my electric bill,” Evers said.

She paid, even though, in the back of her mind, she knew her payment wasn’t late. “I have pets under sedation, and I’m taking care of animals. I think I just panicked, thinking they were going to shut my electricity off. I did what they told me to do.” Evers lost $900 because the call was a scam.

The scam that duped Evers has plagued utility consumers across North America for several years, robbing them of millions. Now, utilities are fighting back. Recently, more than 80 utilities and energy industry organizations from across the U.S. and Canada joined forces to recognize the first-ever North American Utilities United Against Scams Day on Nov. 16, 2016. Electric cooperatives have increased their communication efforts, sending information directly to members and encouraging local TV stations and newspapers to warn citizens about the scam, how it works and what people should do and not do, if they are ever targeted.

Even the wariest consumers can be duped, however. The scammers are developing new tactics every day. The “past due” scam, similar to the one Florida customer Evers experienced, goes something like this: A customer gets a call from an 800 number that looks like a valid utility company phone number. Widely available spoofing software allows crooks to display what appears to be an official number on caller IDs. The caller threatens to cut off power if the customer doesn’t pay.

But here’s the giveaway: The crook will demand payment via a prepaid debit card or money order. And he’ll ask for it within a specified timeframe, often an hour or less. The scammer may even quote an amount that sounds like your typical monthly bill. That way, the threat has even more credibility.

Scammers might direct the customer to a specific store nearby that sells the prepaid cards and instruct the customer to put money on the card and provide the card number to the scammer. Some scammers have even been bold enough to contact potential victims in person, coming to the member’s house.

Here are some tips on how to protect yourself:

  • Do not assume the name and number on your caller ID are legitimate. Caller IDs can be spoofed.
  • Never share your personal information, including date of birth, Social Security number or banking account information.
  • Never wire money to someone you don’t know.
  • Do not click links or call numbers in unexpected emails or texts–especially those asking for your account information. Most utilities will NOT require their customers to purchase prepaid debit cards or money orders to avoid an immediate disconnection.
  • If you receive a call that sounds like it may be a scam, or if you believe the call is a scam, hang up, call the police and report the incident to your local utility. You can alert your family members and friends. Share the scammers’ tactics de- scribed in this article or those you have heard about. You can also help raise awareness and warn others by reposting scam awareness information on social media; use the hashtag #stopscams.
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New Hires

Jacob Ihry joined the Grand Forks construction crew August 2017 as apprentice journeyman lineman. He had previously worked as a seasonal apprentice for the 2017 construction season.

Jacob grew up in Hope, N.D., and graduated from Hope High School and Bismarck State College’s line school.

After graduation, he worked for Vetsch Independent Power for a few years before moving to Arizona to work as a mechanic for a ready mix company.

Jacob is engaged to be married this summer to Nicole. They have a son, Daxton, and live in Grand Forks.

He loves spending time with family and going to the lake in the summer. Other hobbies include heading to the mountains for snowboarding and snowmobiling.

On Jan. 1, 2018, Brock Janikowski started full time with Nodak Electric’s Grafton crew as an apprentice journeyman lineman. During summer 2017, he worked as a seasonal apprentice.

Brock is a Grafton, N.D., native, graduating from Grafton High School and then Bismarck State College’s line school.

His hobbies include hunting and also hanging out with friends.


Nodak Electric welcomes Alex Schultz to the Grand Forks construction crew as apprentice journeyman lineman.

Alex started with Nodak as a seasonal apprentice for the 2017 construction season and became full time Jan. 1, 2018.  He previously worked for Rock’s Electric Construction and North-Holt Electric.

In his spare time, Alex enjoys spending time with family and friends, watching sports, playing golf and going to the lake.

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Traiser Retires

Nodak Electric would like to congratulate Chuck Traiser on more than 35 years of service. Chuck retired on Jan. 19, 2018, after starting with Nodak as a temporary employee in 1982. He was hired full time in the spring of 1983 as senior dispatch technician, but held other positions throughout his career, such as working in the Engineering Department and as a cable locator and warehouseman.

Chuck’s retirement plans include relaxing, traveling and going to the lake to do some fishing. He will stay busy with his hobbies, home projects and spoiling their new baby grandsons, Calvin and Gavin.

We wish him all the happiness and freedom retirement has to offer.

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Nodak Electric Cooperative

Nodak Electric Cooperative is dedicated to being an efficient provider of quality electric service with leadership that demonstrates the highest regard for its members/owners.

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800-732-4373 or 701-746-4461

Jan/Feb 2018

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