Several Missoula businesses have fallen prey to an ongoing scam in which they are convinced their power will be shut off if they don't pay their bill immediately.

Spokesman for Northwestern Energy, Butch Larcombe, said this kind of scam has been perpetrated for many years throughout the state.

"Some of our customers get calls from people saying their are from Northwestern Energy saying their bill is overdue, and if they don't pay, in an hour or two, their power will be shut off," Larcombe said. "Sometimes the people fall for that and end up losing their money."

Larcombe said Northwestern Energy would never threaten to shut off power immediately for non-payment.

"When we have people behind in their bills, we make plenty of contact with them," he said. "We'll call, we'll send them notices and try to work something out. We'll never thteaten to shut off power on short notice. We certainly don't require that people pay in the form that these scam artists are demanding, such as with cash cards, or demanding bank information over the phone."

Larcombe said Northwestern Energy has a customer information number in case a business or individual receives a scam call. It is 888-467-2669.