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Scammers target households during severe winter weather

PUEBLO WEST, Colo. (KRDO) -- When Callico Vargas woke up inside her Pueblo West home on Tuesday, the temperature outside was in the single digits. Later that morning she received a phone call from what she presumed to be Xcel Energy.

Vargas was told she owed $400, and if she didn't pay, they would send a crew to shut off her gas in the middle of the severe cold front.

"I was angry," said Vargas. "I thought this was unjust and unfair. I work from home, my daughter goes to school from home. We can't just have our stuff turned off and I can't just quit working to go take care of this."

The Pueblo West homeowner said her February bills from Xcel indicated she only owed $90 for the month of February. However, a man named 'Bill' told her these payments were for November and December. 'Bill' told Vargas to purchase a Money Pack card from Walgreen in order to make the payment.

"We had been hitting negatives the past three days at night. I just thought this is unbelievable," said Vargas.

Fortunately for Vargas, she called Xcel Energy and quickly realized the call was a scam. However, others weren't so lucky.

Andrew Dusing from Denver ended up shelling out more than $800 to a scam caller portraying themselves as Xcel Energy.

Dusing says when he was told he owed Xcel hundreds of dollars he was afraid his roommate failed to pay the energy companies for months.

"They had my address, they had my name, and they knew I had an apartment mate," said Dusing.

Xcel Energy tells KRDO News Channel 13 these scams aren't anything new. However, scam callers are willing to pose as energy companies during severe weather in order to up the stakes for potential victims.

"It's easier to take advantage of someone and put them in that panic mode," said Vargas.

Xcel says they will never require customers to pay in any format that includes money cards or gift cards. Bills are exclusively payed directly through Xcel Energy.

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Dan Beedie

Dan is a reporter with the 13 Investigates team. Learn more about Dan here.

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