By Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt
Events of the past several months have been challenging for Americans as the world navigates the perils of a global COVID-19 pandemic. Sadly, there is an element of society that is preying on those fears, seeking to add another level of pain and suffering to consumers.
Scammers are calling residents or going door-to-door impersonating your utility company, threatening to shut off services, often within the hour or mere days, if they do not receive payment. The scammer insists that they must receive payment and have access to your financial information to keep the lights on, or more importantly, the air conditioner running. We have heard this complaint frequently in recent weeks. In fact, the Federal Trade Commission has as well and issued guidance on how to prevent becoming another victim.
Many small businesses have also been suffering due to the effects of COVID. Unfortunately, this also makes them targets for scammers. The scammers know a business owner would rather pay than risk having their utilities turned off and have to close the business. As always, when it comes to folks you do not recognize calling you and asking for money, your best solution is to hang up. If you have questions about the status of your utility bill payments, call the company directly at the phone number printed on your bill.
Furthermore, scammers may claim the COVID-19 crisis has affected the company in addition to customers, and that they cannot currently process check or card payments. Rest assured, this is not how legitimate companies will operate. Don’t pay cash to anyone on the spot without any prior notice from your utility company, even if the person has a uniform or an ID that looks real. Even if the individual seems legitimate, call your utility company to confirm they are authorized to visit your home before making any payment.
You can help stop such scams by alerting your friends, neighbors and family so they can protect themselves. Remember, if you receive a call from a scammer just hang up. Better yet, if you don’t recognize the number, don’t answer the phone.
More information on how to protect yourself from these and other scams is available on our consumer protection website at www.InYourCornerKansas.org or by calling our consumer protection hotline at (800) 432-2310.