By Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt
Although summer is winding down, high temperatures and dry conditions linger, which strains power systems’ ability to keep up with electricity demands. And as much as reliability can be an issue, so can scammers who are always on the prowl to defraud residents by demanding payment and threatening to shut off power.
Utility companies across the state have reported an increase in customer calls alerting them of imposters, who are out in force. Scammers call residents threatening to shut off water or utility services within days or mere hours, unless the citizen pays the caller. These scammers insist they must receive payment and have access to the customer’s financial information to keep the lights on or the air conditioner running. In some cases, the scammer insists that a consumer’s check bounced and demands payment with a pre-paid credit card or gift card. Other callers say they are simply trying to update credit card or banking information they have on file, and ask residents to reveal that personal information.
Our office has also received these complaints. As always, when folks you do not know call you and ask for money, payment, or personal information, 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 its customers, and that they cannot currently process check or card payment. Rest assured, this is not how legitimate companies will operate. Do not pay cash to anyone on the spot who says they are from your utility company, even if the person has a uniform or an ID that looks real. Even if the situation seems legitimate, call your utility company at the number printed on your billing statement to confirm they are authorized to visit your home.
Another new wrinkle this summer has been the appearance of solar panel installation companies going door-to-door seeking to sell residents solar power systems. These companies may claim to have established a partnership with your electric provider. Aggressive salespeople lead customers to believe that the solar panel systems will eliminate their electric bill, and they attempt to lock buyers into financing terms that will last longer than the expected life of the system.
Customers who receive such sales pitches should do their own research on solar panel systems and to report any suspected scams to the attorney general’s consumer protection division.
You can help stop such scams by alerting your friends, neighbors and family to this scam 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.