Personal Finance

KCP&L says phone scams soared 76 percent. Here's how to protect yourself

The Parker County Sheriff’s Office is warning citizens to be careful about callers who are identifying themselves as a sheriff’s office employee, stating that they are calling about an outstanding warrant and asking the would-be victim to pay.
The Parker County Sheriff’s Office is warning citizens to be careful about callers who are identifying themselves as a sheriff’s office employee, stating that they are calling about an outstanding warrant and asking the would-be victim to pay. Bigstock

A new wave of scam calls targeting customers of KCP&L led to a 76 percent increase in such attacks this year, the utility says.

Scammers hit 326 customers in the first three months of this year, said Kansas City Power & Light, which serves consumers throughout the Kansas City area. A year ago, 185 customers had reported scam calls in that time.

Technology allows scammers to appear to be calling from KCP&L, but the company offered advice on how to detect, avoid and report the fraud.

"With the most current phone scam, the caller is often a live person posing as a KCP&L employee who notifies the customer of a past due bill and demands immediate payment to avoid service disconnection," a statement from the company said.

If you get that kind of a call, it's a scam. KCP&L does call customers and uses both automated and live callers, but it never demands immediate payment, the company said.

Scammers also are telling targeted consumers to pay their bill by purchasing a Green Dot MoneyPak and giving them information about the prepaid card, KCP&L said.

Real employees of KCP&L would never do that or ask for payment with any kind of prepaid card, the company said. Crooks want these prepaid money cards because they can be used by anyone who has them or has the MoneyPak number on the card.

"Treat your MoneyPak number the way you treat cash," Green Dot warns consumers on its webpage about fraud. "Green Dot is not responsible for paying you back if you unsuspectingly give your MoneyPak number to a criminal who uses the MoneyPak."

KCP&L advises anyone who thinks they might be the target of a scam phone call to ask the caller for a number to call back. Write it down and then provide the number to KCP&L.

Storms last year helped reveal that KCP&L had been making customers' phone numbers freely available through its online outage reporting system. The company said the system made reporting outages easier but changed it to prevent the disclosures. It also said the system's original form was legal and that phone numbers generally were available elsewhere online.

A KCP&L website used by customers to report power outages disclosed customers' phone numbers. Video by Mark Davis and Chris Ochsner

In many of the scams the company has learned about, the return call phone number the scammer gives is different than the caller ID number shown when he called.

If you have doubts that a call about your KCP&L service or bill is real, hang up and call KCP&L's customer contact center at 816-471-5275 if you are in the Kansas City area, or 888-471-5275 if you are in one of the other areas of Missouri or Kansas it serves. The company said updates to its customer services on May 2 through May 6 may make some online and phone services unavailable during those four days.

More information about scams and advice for consumers is available from KCP&L online.

The company also tells consumers who suspect fraud or scam calls to report it to local law enforcement.

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