KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kansas City Power and Light is warning its customers of a dramatic increase in reported scammers posing as KCP&L employees over the phone.
KCP&L said in a news release that 326 attempted utility collection call scams were reported in the first quarter of 2018 compared to 185 in 2017, a 76 percent increase.
KCP&L said scammers will manipulate the caller ID to look like a legitimate KCP&L phone number. The caller poses as a KCP&L employee who tells the customer of a past due bill. KCP&L said the caller will demand immediate payment to avoid service disconnection, oftentimes requesting the customer buy a Green Dot MoneyPak card to pay their bill.
If the customer isn’t able to make an immediate payment or doesn’t answer, the caller gives a return phone number that isn’t the KCP&L number they appear to be calling from.
Della C. Lamb Accounts Payable Administrator Meaghan Jones said just a few months ago she received a call from someone claiming they worked with KCP&L.
“The man on the phone knew exactly the amount of our last invoice from KCPL, so I thought it had some merit,” Jones said. “He was saying we had a shut-off notice and I was like does it bother you we had a zero balance 29 days and now there's a shut-off notice, that didn't seem right.”
Jones said she asked to speak to the supervisor, and the phone call was later disconnected.
“They were confident, kinda pushy and were like, ‘We have to take a payment now,’” she said. “And they were like, ‘We’re going to shut off your electricity for your building,’ and I was like, ‘No, no you're not.’”
KCP&L stated scammers are targeting both homes and businesses.
“It’s an uphill battle, there's no question about it,” KCP&L spokesman Jeremy McNeive said. “With the advancements of technology, these scammers are becoming more and more savvy every day.”
KCP&L said there are other scams targeting utility customers, and some signs to spot a scam include:
Threat to disconnect: Scammers may aggressively tell customers their utility bills are 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 and PIN, which grants the scammer instant access to the card’s funds, and the victim’s money is gone.
KCP&L said in a news release the company does complete outbound calls to customers through an automated system as well as a manual dialing process. With these calls, there is never an immediate demand for payment, nor would a customer ever be directed to purchase a prepaid card. KCP&L said they will take payments over the phone and communicate to a customer their service is in jeopardy of field disconnect if a bill past due isn’t paid.
KCP&L said if you feel you have been a victim of this scam, work with local law enforcement to report the crime. Customers can visit https://www.kcpl.com/scamalert for more information.