Xcel: Scammers targeting small, minority owned, businesses in metro Denver

Thieves ask for credit card info

DENVER - Thieves, posing as Xcel Energy employees, are trying to scam small businesses in metro Denver whose owners speak English as a second language.

"We received two calls," said L. Nguyen of Mile Hi Spa & Nails. "One came in about a month ago and the other yesterday."

Nguyen told 7NEWS that the caller spoke with a "southern" accent and told the spa owner to pay her electric bill immediately or service would be shut off.

"She handed the phone to me and the caller repeated the request," Nguyen said. "He said we could pay by credit card over the phone, and that they even accept American Express."

Nguyen said he knew it was a scam, because the owner always pays her bills automatically online.

"When I asked the caller for her name, she hung up," he said.

"These scams kind of go in waves," said Xcel Energy spokesman Gabriel Romero. "They concentrate on large cities and right now they're focusing on Denver."

Romero said the scammers are becoming more sophisticated.

"Unfortunately," he said, "they have the sophistication to put Xcel Energy's name on the caller ID."

"I think it's terrible," Nguyen said. "It's not good that they're targeting small businesses whose owners do not speak a lot of English, especially this nail salon, or the (Chinese) restaurant next door."

Romero said a handful of customers have fallen for the scam which he said is difficult to police.

"It's tough to police something when you don't know where they are," he said, "or where they're calling from.  They have fake numbers.  They have fake everything."

Romero said that any customer who questions whether the call is legitimate should hang up and call Xcel themselves.