ASHLAND, Ky., Aug. 15, 2017 – Small business owners and residential customers of Kentucky Power are among the latest targets of scam artists seeking to extort cash. The scam, which instructs customers to make immediate payment or have their service disconnected, has been used in other states. Victims often are directed to purchase prepaid debit cards.
Utility company scams, unfortunately, are too common. While there are instances when Appalachian Power will contact customers over the telephone, the company does not demand payment in this manner, said Del Borden, Kentucky Power’s director of Customer Service and Business Development. A non-profit agency in Prestonsburg was one of the more recent targets but did not fall for the scam.
“Scammers are targeting local businesses, senior citizens and other customers,” Borden said. “We’re sharing this information so customers can protect themselves from this fraudulent activity. We also want our customers to know our employees will never demand immediate payment, insist a payment be made with a prepaid card or ask you to meet us in a parking lot to make a payment. If customers receive suspicious, urgent, demanding phone calls from someone claiming to be with Kentucky Power or AEP, we suggest they hang up and contact us at the toll-free number on their bill, that’s 1-800-572-1113, or call local law enforcement.”
Thieves are calling Kentucky Power customers and:
* Threatening to shut off power unless an immediate payment is made;
* Telling customers they need a new electric meter, but must make a payment before the new meter is installed;
* Offering a discount on their Kentucky Power bill if they sign up for auto-pay;
[if !supportLists]· [endif]Demanding a deposit is paid immediately.
More Red flags for scam activity
* The thief instructs the customer to purchase a pre-paid debit or credit card – widely available at retail stores – then call him or her back to supposedly make a payment to Kentucky Power.
* The scammer asks the customer for the prepaid card’s receipt number and PIN number, which grants instant access to the card’s funds.
* The scammers often call from numbers that names Kentucky Power on the Caller ID. And they have a recording that sounds like Kentucky Power’s phone message.
How to protect yourself
* Call Kentucky Power at 1-800-572-1113 to verify your account balance and the date your payment is due. Customers can make payments online, by phone, automatic bank draft, mail or in person.
* Confirm that you are speaking to a utility representative. If you have any concerns, tell the caller that you will independently check the phone number for the utility to verify the caller’s identity and information.
* Kentucky Power will notify customers by mail that their account is past due and their electric service will be disconnected – never a single notification one hour before disconnection.
* Never give your credit card, debit card, Social Security, ATM, checking or savings account numbers, or any other personal identification numbers to anyone who comes to your home, calls or emails requesting information.
* Never allow anyone claiming to be a utility service person into your home unless you have scheduled an appointment and the person has proper identification. Lock the door and contact police if you become concerned about your safety.
* Customers who suspect or experience fraud, or feel threatened during contact with one of these thieves should hang up and call the local police and then Kentucky Power at 1-800-572-1113. Never dial the phone number the scammers provide.
On average, more than 90 percent of customers who receive a call and report it to Kentucky Power indicate they did not fall for the scam. In the initial stages of the scam activity, it is estimated that at least 50 percent of customers contacted were tricked.
Kentucky Power, with headquarters in Ashland, Ky., provides service to about 168,000 customers in all or part of 20 eastern Kentucky counties. It is an operating company in the AEP system, one of the largest electric utilities in the United States, delivering electricity and custom energy solutions to nearly 5.4 million customers in 11 states. AEP also owns the nation’s largest electricity transmission system. AEP’s headquarters are in Columbus, Ohio.