The third annual Utility Scam Awareness Day is being observed throughout the week to help expose the tactics scammers use and educate residents and small business owners on how to protect themselves.
“KCP&L and Westar Energy are promoting this important awareness campaign to help our customers recognize signs of a potential scam and to avoid becoming victimized,” said Doug Alexander, manager of security operations.
KCP&L offers these important safety tips to keep in mind.
- Never give credit card, debit card, Social Security, ATM, checking or savings account numbers to anyone who comes to your home, calls, text and/or sends an email requesting this information in respect to your utility bill, without also verifying that person is with KCP&L or Westar by either asking to see company identification or by calling the Customer Contact Center at the number found on their website or on your bill.
- Be suspicious if you receive an email regarding your utility bill if you have not requested online communications from KCP&L or Westar.
- For customers using KCP&L or Westar’s online bill pay system, always make online payments directly through kcpl.com and westarenergy.com.
- Never provide personal information via email or click any suspicious links.
Signs of a potential scam include:
- Threat to disconnect: Scammers may aggressively tell the customer his or her utility bill is past due and service will be disconnected if a payment is not made – usually within an hour.
- Request for immediate payment: Scammers may instruct the customer to purchase a prepaid card – widely available at retail stores – then call them back supposedly to make a bill payment.
- Request for prepaid card: When the customer calls back, the caller asks the customer for the prepaid card’s number, which grants the scammer instant access to the card’s funds, and the victim’s money is gone.
With the phone scam, the caller is often a live person posing as an employee of KCP&L or Westar who notifies the customer of a past due bill and demands immediate payment to avoid service disconnection. Scammers also can manipulate the caller ID to look like the companies’ phone number. In some instances, the caller requests that the customer purchase a money gram to pay their bill. If the customer is unable to make an immediate payment or does not answer, the caller gives out a return phone number for customers to call back, however, an important distinction is that the callback number the scammer provide is not the KCP&L or Westar number. When calling, customers are often prompted by a convincing, but fraudulent recording with instructions to make to make their payment with a live person. This phone number is not associated with KCP&L or Westar.
Due to valued customer reports, KCP&L and Westar have worked in conjunction with UUAS to quickly shut down many of these fraudulent numbers and frustrate these scams. In such cases, it is extremely valuable for the reporting customer to obtain and provide the scammer’s requested callback number. UUAS is dedicated to combating utility scams by providing a forum for utilities and trade associations to share data and best practices, in addition to working together to implement initiatives to inform and protect customers. Visit http://www.UtilitiesUnited.org for more information and tips about how customers can protect themselves from scams
If customers ever have questions about the legitimacy of a bill, phone call or email regarding their utility bill, they should refrain from providing any personal or banking information, hang up and contact the Customer Contact Center at (888) 471-5275 or (816) 471-5275.
If you feel you have been a victim of this scam, please work with your local law enforcement agency to report the crime. For more information, visit www.kcpl.com/scamalert.