EAU CLAIRE- (April 10, 2023) – The arrival of spring marks the end of the heating season. It’s also time for customers who may have fallen behind on their bills to make arrangements to ensure their service is not interrupted. For those who may need financial assistance, there are a variety of programs that can help customers in need.
The moratorium, which expires April 15, helps protect residential energy customers from electric or gas service disconnections if it affects their primary heating source. The rule runs each year from November 1 – April 15.
“We understand that customers occasionally face challenges paying their bills, so we are here to work with them to find payment plans that meet their needs,” said Nora Lindgren, director, Billing and Regulatory Compliance. “Local nonprofit organizations and community action programs can also provide financial assistance. Funds are still available, so we want customers taking advantage of these programs.”
So far in 2023, more than 6,800 Xcel Energy customers in Wisconsin have received just over $3 million in energy assistance, averaging about $438 for each customer.
To determine if a household qualifies for assistance and weatherization services from the Department of Administration’s Wisconsin Energy Assistance Program (WHEAP), customers can visit their website or call 1-866-HEATWIS (432-8947).
For more information on energy assistance, affordability programs, payment options and energy saving tips, customers can contact Xcel Energy at 1-800-895-4999 or visit XcelEnergy.com.
Be aware of scams
Xcel Energy also wants to remind customers to be aware of scams that typically ramp up during the change in seasons.
In most scenarios, the scammer tells the customer their account is past due and service will be disconnected if a large payment isn’t made – usually within the hour. The scammer then instructs the customer to purchase a pre-paid debit or credit card – widely available at retail stores – and demands the customer call back to supposedly make a payment to the utility. These scammers often sound professional and may also manipulate caller ID so numbers look like they’re coming from Xcel Energy.
Even when a caller sounds legitimate, here are some quick warning signs for customers:
· Customers should be very suspicious if a caller requires a single form of payment, such as requiring the use of a prepaid debit card. Xcel Energy offers many options for payment and will never ask or require a customer with a past due account to purchase a prepaid debit card to avoid disconnection.
· Xcel Energy customers will initially be contacted by U.S. mail about past due bills, not over the phone. You will also be sent a disconnection notice in writing before your power is actually turned off.
· Customers should never wire money, provide bank card numbers, and social security numbers to an unverified source.
Customers with any doubt about the authenticity of someone claiming to be from Xcel Energy and asking for payment should hang up immediately. They should then call Xcel Energy Customer Service at 1-800-895-4999 or our Business Solutions Center at 1-800-481-4700 (M-F, 8 a.m.-5 p.m.) to report the experience. By calling these numbers, customers can count on the help of a legitimate representative. Information provided will be shared with investigators to aid in possible criminal investigation. Affected customers should also contact local authorities to file a criminal complaint.
Xcel Energy’s website has much more information to help people avoid phone, email, in person and employment scams.