• John McGary, Woodford Sun News Editor

Scam artists target KU customers

On the morning of Tuesday, Aug. 21, Woodford County Chamber of Commerce CEO Don Vizi was told he hadn’t paid the Chamber’s electricity bill.

The caller said his name was John Matthews, and that he worked for Kentucky Utilities (KU). “Matthews” told Vizi the Chamber owed $400.90.

“(He said) we were going to have our power turned off between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. that day and that I need to pay the bill. He gave me an order number (of the truck) that was going to turn off the power. It sounded fairly reasonable…” Vizi said.

Vizi told the man, whom he described as having an Asian-type accent, that wasn’t going to happen, and gave him the check number for bills he’d paid to KU.

“And then all of a sudden, things got a little shaky. He said, ‘Well, I checked and what’s happened is that they have credited your checks to another account.’ And I said, ‘Well, it seems like that’s your problem, not my problem,’” Vizi said.

Vizi asked the man to move the funds from the wrong account to the Chamber’s account, but was told KU couldn’t do that.

“You have to pay this, and then we’ll reimburse you,” the man told Vizi.

Vizi said he refused, but was given another number to pay the bill – 000887irt. Vizi asked where he was supposed to pay and was told Kroger, a Dollar General store and a gas station.

Vizi asked if there was a KU office in town – knowing there was. The man said “no” and that Vizi needed to make out a money order to the number he’d been given. Vizi again refused and asked to be sent an invoice.

“And all of a sudden, he hung up,” Vizi said.

Vizi then went to the KU office, where he confirmed that the Chamber had indeed paid its electricity bill. Also there were two ladies who told him they’d received similar calls. They’d also been told to go to Kroger and pay the bill, but when they went to Kroger, an employee told them Kroger didn’t know anything about it, Vizi said.

KU spokesperson Daniel Lowry told the Sun what happened to Vizi and the others is a common scam, though it occurs more often in the winter. Some involve money orders, others “MoneyPaks,” which the company by that name calls “The fast and easy way to reload your prepaid card or a friend’s. Find a retailer near you and pick one up today.”

There were three such attempts the previous week in Georgetown and others around the state, Lowry said.

Lowry said what makes the efforts more convincing is that the caller can “spoof” KUs 1-800 phone number so their display indicates they are indeed on the phone with a utility employee.

According to Vizi, the Woodford County scam seemed to target businesses, and Lowry said, sometimes, businesses are more vulnerable. Lowry said KU will never contact customers via phone and ask for money. People in danger of having their service cut off are notified by letter, he said. He encouraged KU customers with any questions about potential scams to call their customer service number, 1-800-981-0600. The scam is a crime, so people should consider filing a police report, too, he said.

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