Better Business Bureau® serving Central & Eastern Kentucky has heard from local businesses this week that received calls from scammers posing as Kentucky Utilities, threatening that their power would be shut off immediately if they did not pay their bill by phone right away. These businesses also said that when they called back numbers left by the scammers, the voice greeting sounded exactly the same as the real Kentucky Utilities greeting.
A Lexington liquor store owner said the call came over the weekend. He said the caller was “sending a technician in 30 minutes to shut off the power” if he didn’t pay over the phone. The owner knew he had no outstanding electric bill, called Kentucky Utilities at the number in phone directory and was assured he was paid up in full.
A Lexington equestrian farm office manager also received the call. The farm was also threatened with power shut-off in 30 minutes unless payment was made immediately by phone. The manager had trouble understanding the caller, and the caller hung up on her when she said they had already paid. She called back the number given and heard a voice greeting just like the message that plays when calling the real Kentucky Utilities. She called the number for the real Kentucky Utilities, who told her it was a scam call and the business owed no bills.
“This phone scam can be alarming to a business owner who relies on the electricity being on in order to stay open and serve customers,” said Heather Clary, Director of Communications. “Con artists count on the person who answers the phone panicking and agreeing to whatever they are told to do in order to keep the lights on. However, it’s always a sign of a scam when you are urged to pay right away, especially if you are told to do so with a re-loadable card, like Amazon, Google Play, or iTunes cards.”
A page warning about scams on KU’s website states: “We will NEVER call you to demand payment or ask for a credit/debit card number or any other personal identification. If you ever get a call threatening to shut off your power if you don’t provide that information, it’s a scam.”
With summer vacations not far off, some businesses may have smaller staffs or even temporary employees and/or interns. BBB offers the following tips to business owners to avoid being scammed:
· Require all employees, including temps and interns, to pass along any mailed, emailed or phone demands for payments of any kind to an employee designated to deal with those.
· Train staffers who answer the phones to NEVER agree to any kind of supply shipments, “yellow page”/directory listings, etc. Con artists like to call during lunch or during early and late operating hours when supervisors may not be available and less experienced staff might be on phone duty.
· Check out any solicitations from new vendors or other services with your BBB before entering into any agreements. You can do this at www.bbb.org or by calling (859) 259-1008 or 1-800-866-6668.
· If your business is the victim of a scam, please report it to BBB. We can try to help with the problem, and warn others!
The public can report scams to BBB Scam Tracker at www.bbb.org/scamtracker.