Vet clinic targeted by utility scammers
Dr. Detra Bryant said she wishes she didn't have an appointment the day someone impersonating a Kentucky Utilities (KU) employee tried to take her for more than $1,000. If so, she might have helped apprehend one member of a team of people who are, according to KU spokesman Cliff Feltham, still likely at large. The call to the Buffalo Trace Veterinary Clinic came on a late Wednesday afternoon last month. Bryant said a person identifying herself as a KU employee told her that the clinic was two months late on its bill - and that if the $1,005.64 wasn't paid within a half-hour, they'd turn off the electricity. Despite the fact that the supposed KU worker had her account number and exact totals for her January and February bills, the call didn't make sense. Bryant's bookkeeper had checked the records and found the clinic had paid the January bill and just mailed the February bill. Bryant was given a phone number to call. "So when I called the number that they gave me, it was the KU recording, 'Push a certain number for billing,' and I pushed that. So then this lady answered and she knew the exact amount for January and February and she told me they had not received (the) January (bill) and that I owed this amount ." she said. Bryant told the woman - fiercely, she said - that the February statement showed the January bill had been paid. "And she said that her computer did not show the January payment. . And she said if I would go ahead and pay the $1,000-something, then once they received the money, they would credit that to my account for a future bill," Bryant said. Bryant argued that it didn't make sense, because according to her February bill, she only owed what was due that month and that the check was in the mail. The woman said again that KU had not received the January payment and was getting ready to cut their power. Bryant was told again that she had 30 minutes to pay up. "And I said, 'I know where your location is. I can go and pay.' And she said, 'No, I need you to go and pay at a different location,'" Bryant said. The location she was given was in the Western Kentucky city of Morganfield - 217 or so miles away. The woman asked if Bryant could be there in 15 minutes. "And I said, 'You're crazy, because you know my address and you know where you want me to go and that's impossible,'" Bryant said. She was put on hold. The woman returned to the phone and told her she could also pay at the CVS Pharmacy on Lexington Street in Versailles. "And I said, 'You want me to pay my KU bill at the CVS pharmacy?' And she said, 'But it's not paying it at the pharmacy. Someone else will meet you there and that's who you pay. But it has to be in cash.'" By then, Bryant was very suspicious, but on the off chance that the call was legitimate, wanted to do everything possible to ensure her clinic didn't lose electricity. The woman took Bryant's cell phone number and told her to call her back when she got to CVS. Meanwhile, Bryant's bookkeeper was on another line with a KU official, who told her it was scam. Bryant said she wanted to go to CVS anyway - without cash - but had a late afternoon appointment with a patient. "I was so angry, I was honestly going to call one of my police officer clients and ask them to ride down there with me and find out who these people were, but I couldn't," Bryant said. Later, she called the number she'd been given. "I called her back to say a few words and she hung up on me," Bryant said with a laugh. A KU employee told her the scammers had come up with their own KU recording, complete with a number to press for billing that would send a caller to the person with whom Bryant spoke. The KU worker didn't know how the crooks got her account information, but told Bryant the clinic's account was in good standing and was not in danger of having its electricity cut off. "They are very sneaky. . They had my account number, my address, they knew the exact totals down to the penny," Bryant said. She tried the number again, from her cell phone and business line. No one answered. "I really wanted to catch these people, you know?" Bryant said.