A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

LG&E, KU among more than 100 utilities marking week-long utility scam awareness campaign

Louisville Gas and Electric Company and Kentucky Utilities Company are proud to stand with more than 100 U.S. and Canadian utilities to expose the tactics scammers use when attempting to steal money from utility customers and to educate customers on how to protect themselves.

The awareness efforts are part of LG&E and KU’s participation in Utilities United Against Scams (UUAS), a consortium representing electric, natural gas, and water utilities, as well as their respective trade associations. The consortium’s second annual Utility Scam Awareness Day, observed Nov. 15, was part of a week-long advocacy and awareness campaign through Nov. 17.

Many electric, natural gas and water customers throughout the country are targeted by impostor utility scams each day. Scammers typically use phone, in-person, and online tactics to target these customers. Perpetrators of the scams often pose as utility employees, and threaten to disconnect or shut off customers’ services if an immediate payment is not made – typically using a prepaid card or another non-traceable form of payment.

Scammers can be very convincing and often target those who are most vulnerable, including senior citizens and low-income communities. They also aim their scams at small business owners during busy customer service hours. However, with the right information, customers can learn to detect and report these predatory scams.

“Impostor utility scams can be highly profitable to scammers and financially detrimental to consumers,” said UUAS Executive Director and former Texas Utility Consumer Advocate Sheri Givens. “To prevent future crimes, it is important to educate community leaders and consumers on how to spot, avoid, and report scams.”

“The safety and security of our customers is a top priority for our company,” said Victor A. Staffieri, chairman and CEO of LG&E and KU. “It’s our hope that continuing to educate our customers on how they can protect themselves from becoming scam victims, while working side-by-side with our fellow utilities, will create a significant impact in helping to reduce these types of crimes.”

Signs of Potential Scam Activity:

• Threat to disconnect: Scammers may aggressively tell the customer his or her utility bill is past due and service will be disconnected if a payment is not made – usually within less than an hour.

• Request for immediate payment: Scammers may instruct the customer to purchase a prepaid card – widely available at retail stores – then call them back supposedly to make a bill payment to his or her utility company.

• Request for prepaid card: When the customer calls back, the caller asks the customer for the prepaid card’s number, which grants the scammer instant access to the card’s funds, and the victim’s money is gone.

LG&E and KU work with law enforcement investigating these types of crimes, and offer the following SAFE advice to residential and business customers:

Secure your personal information: LG&E and KU will never call and ask for credit or debit card numbers or other personal information.

Always remember you have bill payment options: LG&E and KU offer customers a variety of official payment options. A complete list can be found at here.

First check with LG&E and KU if you’re suspicious: Customers who receive a suspicious live phone call, an email or letter should call LG&E and KU which will always verify official communications. LG&E customers should call 502-589-1444 (outside Louisville at 1-800-331-7370); KU customers should call 1-800-981-0600.

Enlist the help of authorities: In addition to contacting the company, customers who suspect they have been victims of fraud, or who feel threatened during contact with scammers, should report it to their local police department.

The Federal Trade Commission website also offers helpful tips for protecting personal information.

UUAS is dedicated to combating impostor utility scams by providing a forum for utilities and trade associations to share data and best practices, in addition to working together to implement trade associations to share data and best practices, in addition to working together to implement initiatives to inform and protect customers.

Visit utilitiesunited.org for more information and tips about how customers can protect themselves from scams or follow along on social media at @UUAS on Twitter and on Facebook @UtilitiesUnited.

From Louisville Gas and Electric and Kentucky Utilities

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