Texas Utility Mistakenly Alerts Customers They Owe $200K, Warns of Fake Bill Collectors

Amid freezing temperatures and power outages in Texas, a high natural gas bill is an added stress.

A Texas utility company has apologized for accidentally sending an email notification to customers that said they owed over $200,000 for natural gas. The company also warned customers about possible scammers posing as bill collectors.

Local Houston news outlets reported that CenterPoint Energy customers were shocked to receive email notifications that they owed $202,102.16 in natural gas payments. A screenshot shared by Click 2 Houston displayed the notification. The image shows the aforementioned amount, as well as a March 4 due date, and tells customers: "Your CenterPoint Energy bill is ready to view, print and pay online."

Following the erroneous email notifications, CenterPoint tweeted to let their customers know that the message was sent by mistake and they aren't expected to pay the $200,000 fee.

"We are aware of a recent technical issue caused by the power outage in Houston which led to the issuance of incorrect natural gas billing e-mails to some customers. If you have received an e-mail in the amount of $202,102.16, please disregard it. You do not owe this amount," the company tweeted on Thursday, also advising that customers could see their actual bill by logging on online.

We are preparing corrected e-mails to be delivered tomorrow. Your correct balance may be found by logging into your account at https://t.co/ZfgwJcO1VU.

— CenterPoint Energy (@energyinsights) February 18, 2021

The company echoed that the emails were sent out by mistake due to recent power outages in the Texas area via an emailed statement received by Newsweek.

"The power outage in Houston caused a technical issue that generated bill notification emails that were sent to some CenterPoint Energy customers in error. We customers to disregard this notification and that they did not owe this amount. This was only an email message error, not a billing error. Impacted customers received a new email with the correct amount due. We apologize for the error and appreciate customers continued patience," the statement read.

More recently, CenterPoint has warned customers to be weary of fake bill collectors who may be trying to scam them. In Facebook posts and tweets, the company has shared a resource guide from Utilities United, warning about scams and how customers can protect themselves against fake bill collectors.

"They're already targeting our customers claiming to be employees or masquerading as bill collectors. DON'T open doors. DO ask to see ID," CenterPoint wrote in a Friday tweet.

It’s prime time for #scammers – we quote #Houston Police Chief @ArtAcevedo “Con artists are at it!” They’re already targeting our customers claiming to be employees or masquerading as bill collectors. DON'T open doors. DO ask to see ID. Tips: https://t.co/EgYYZ2F22a #hounews pic.twitter.com/d3IvE7LXX3

— CenterPoint Energy (@energyinsights) February 19, 2021

Other tips included in the resource guide include not giving out personal information to those who have not been verified as an employee of the utility company. It also advises customers to take their time and ask questions to verify the employee.

Texas Power Centerpoint Energy
An aerial view from a drone shows electrical power lines running through a neighborhood on February 19, 2021 in Austin, Texas. Joe Raedle/Getty