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Co-ops report second surge in scam calls

AG’s office logs dozens of complaints

Several of Kentucky’s electric cooperatives are reporting another surge in scammers attempting to exploit Kentuckians amidst the COVID-19 crisis.

In recent days, consumer-members of both South Kentucky RECC and Jackson Energy have contacted their co-op to warn about the scam attempts. Some members describe a scam where the caller claims to be with the co-op and that the member’s payments have not worked. The scammer instructs the member to get a “money packet” from a local retail store then call them back with the information.

The Kentucky Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division says it has logged 33 complaints regarding utility-related scams since March.  Among those victims who reported financial losses, the total was $14,533.60 in consumer losses.  Of the 33 complaints, 20 of the victims self-reported their age as 60 or older.  

“While the majority of the complaints we’ve received seem to come from Kentuckians age 60 or older, it’s hard to know if scammers are targeting this age group specifically, or if they are they are simply the age group that is more likely to report,” says Elizabeth Kuhn, Communications Director with the Office of Attorney General Daniel Cameron.

In March, the Kentucky Public Service Commission issued an order that halts disconnections for non-payment and fees for late payments. The PSC cautioned that these temporary measures do not relieve customers of the obligation to ultimately pay bills in full, and co-ops have been working with their members on deferred payment plans and other assistance to ease the transition once the pandemic has passed. 

Coops urge members to avoid arranging payment or divulging account or personal information, including debit or credit card information, over the phone unless you are certain you are speaking to your utility. If you are unsure, hang up and call the publicly listed number for the utility. When making online payments to your electric provider, always double-check to ensure that you are on the correct website before submitting credit card information.

Kentuckians who suspect a scamming attempt should contact their utility and the Kentucky Attorney General’s office:

Online scam reporting form:  ag.ky.gov/scams

Consumer Protection Hotline:  1-888-432-9257

Below are some tips Kentuckians should follow to protect themselves

  • Do not assume the name and number on your caller ID are legitimate. Caller IDs can be spoofed.
  • Never share your personal information, including date of birth, Social Security number or banking account information.
  • Never wire money to someone you don’t know.
  • Do not click links or call numbers in unexpected emails or texts – especially those asking for your account information.
  • Most utilities will NOT require their customers to purchase prepaid debit cards or money orders to avoid an immediate disconnection. 
  • If you receive a call that sounds like it may be a scam, or if you believe the call is a scam, hang up, call the police, report the incident to your local utility, and report the call to the Attorney General’s Office.
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