Hundreds of Midwest Energy customers have received scam calls claiming that Evergy, a large utility serving areas of eastern Kansas, has purchased the Hays-based cooperative and that their last payment didn’t go through. Another variation of this scam states the two companies merged, and customers need to provide their banking information so future payments are unaffected.
“There is nothing accurate about these calls,” said Jenna Zeman, Midwest’s Director of Customer Service. “Midwest Energy has not been purchased by Evergy, and these are just another attempt by scammers to separate people from their money.”
Zeman said this summer, scammers have been working extra hard in trying to con customers, often threatening immediate disconnection if the customer doesn’t make an immediate payment.
“They make dozens, sometimes hundreds of calls a day, using ‘spoofing’ software to make it appear that the call originates from the 785 or 620 area code,” Zeman said. “We believe it’s likely these calls are originating from overseas.”
Here’s how the scams typically work:
· A customer receives a call from a scammer, who informs immediate payment is needed to avoid disconnection within the next 30 minutes.
· The scammer insists that payment can only be made by credit card, or by purchasing a gift card or prepaid debit card at a local store. The scammer directs the customer to a nearby retailer to purchase the card, and to scratch off the gift card’s number and read back the code. Once a person does this, that money is gone forever with little hope of recovery.
“Midwest Energy does not accept gift cards as a form of payment,” Zeman said. “If your account is delinquent, our first contact with you is always by a mailed letter, not an email or a phone call. And we never dictate a method of payment to the customer. How a customer chooses to pay is up to them,” she added.
Zeman said the simplest way to avoid falling victim to scams is to never provide payment information on a call that you didn’t initiate. “If someone calls claiming to be Midwest Energy, the safest thing to do is simply hang up and call us at 1-800-222-3121,” she said.