ASHLAND, Kentucky, March 16 -- Kentucky Power, a unit of American Electric Power, issued the following news release:
Kentucky Power is warning customers to beware of scam artists after a Hazard hotel was scammed out of nearly $6,000 by two thieves posing as representatives of American Electric Power.
Two men wearing hard hats as well as tan pants and shirts with an AEP logo entered the hotel on Thursday, according to a call to the Kentucky Power Customer Solutions Center. The men told hotel employees they were there to disconnect service unless they received immediate payment or lose service. The men gave hotel employees a phone number to call, where they were instructed to buy and load a prepaid debit card with $5,896.89. The hotel employees complied and provided the card to the two imposters. Law enforcement has been notified of the incident.
Neither Kentucky Power nor AEP will contact customers and demand immediate payment in the form of a prepaid debit card or face disconnection, said Del Borden, Kentucky Power's director of Customer Service and Business Development.
"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."
Utility company scams, unfortunately, are common. Thieves not only have posed as representatives of Kentucky and AEP, but also they often call customers and:
* Threaten to shut off power unless an immediate payment is made;
* Tell customers they need a new electric meter, but must make a payment before the new meter is installed;
* Offer a discount on their Kentucky Power bill if they sign up for auto-pay;
* Demand 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.
© 2018 Targeted News Service, source News Service