CenterPoint Energy is encouraging utility customers to be on alert for utility bill scams and the "Green Dot" pre-paid debit card scam, according to Becca Virden, the company's public relations manger.

Kyle Jones, of the St. James Police Department, has been receiving calls from residents concerning some alarming phone calls, and he reported that the caller will contact CenterPoint customers saying that the customer needs to make a credit card payment within 72 hours to stop a disconnection process for their gas meter, Virden said.  This is a definite scam.

Posing as utility company employees, scammers are calling customers to tell them they are behind on their bills and have a short time to make a payment, Virden said. The customers are told to pay with their credit card or purchase a Green Dot pre-paid debit card or other type of reloadable debit card, load the card with money, and then provide the serial number from the card to avoid having their service shut off at the meter.

 “We want to remind customers to report any suspicious activity to their local police department, and if they fall victim, contact their bank or other financial institution(s) to report an incident,” said Joe Vortherms, vice president of gas operations for CenterPoint Energy.

For more on this story, please see the March 20 print edition of the St. James Plaindealer.