ST. LOUIS, March 3, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- Ameren Missouri is warning customers – both business and residential – about scammers, who are using sophisticated tactics to imitate utility companies. In fact, utility scams are near the top of the list of the Better Business Bureau's Top 10 scams over the last year.
Ameren Missouri has seen an increase in the number of scam attempts by individuals posing as a company representative.
These imposters typically use phone, in-person and online tactics. Posing as electric, water or natural gas company employees, scammers threaten to disconnect or shut off service if customers fail to make an immediate payment – typically using a prepaid card or other non-traceable forms of payment. They also often mask incoming calls as coming from the utility company on caller identification systems and then give a different phone number to make a payment.
"The best way to combat scams is to know the tactics that scammers use," said Maria Gomez, security supervisor, Ameren. "Never provide or confirm personal or financial information or make a payment to anyone initiating contact with you – whether by phone, in-person or email – claiming to be a utility company representative. If you suspect something isn't right, trust your gut and do not comply. Scammers prey on fear. By educating our residential and business customers about common scams, we can turn the tide on these thieves, prevent monetary losses and strengthen the communities we serve."
As a reminder, Ameren Missouri will never send a notification to a customer within one hour of a service interruption or ask customers to make payments with a prepaid debit card or gift card.
Signs of potential scam activity
- Threat to disconnect: Scammers may aggressively tell you that your utility bill is past due and service will be disconnected if a payment isn't made. Typically, the scammer will tell you that a disconnection will come within an hour.
- Request for immediate payment: Scammers may instruct you to purchase a prepaid card. The scammer will ask you to return a call for immediate bill payment. When you return the scammer's call, the scammer asks you for the number on the prepaid card. This allows the scammer to gain instant access to the card's funds.
- Fake case number and/or fake truck identification number: Scammers are known to record a voice message and use it to trick customers into thinking they've called the utility company. The scammer gives a fake case number and/or fake identification number of a company truck that is in the vicinity of the customer's home.
- Equipment or repair bogus fee: Scammers may call demanding a separate payment to replace or install a utility-related device or meter.
- Overpayment trick: When scammers call claiming that you've overpaid your utility bill and need to provide personal bank account information or a credit card number to facilitate a refund.
- Power restoration ripoff: Scammers may call offering to restore power quickly or in a preferential order for immediate payment typically in the aftermath of a severe storm causing widespread power outages.
How to protect yourself
- Never give your credit card, debit card, Social Security, ATM, checking or savings account numbers to anyone who calls, sends an email or comes to your home requesting this information.
- Don't trust anyone asking for immediate payment. If you suspect that someone is impersonating an Ameren employee, end the conversation and immediately call Ameren Missouri at 1.800.552.7583.
- Sign up to manage your account online at Ameren.com where you can immediately check the status of your account.
- Never purchase a prepaid card to avoid service disconnection or shutoff. Legitimate utility companies don't specify how customers should make a bill payment and always offer a variety of ways to pay a bill. Ameren customers can make payments online by phone, electronic check, mail or at pay in person locations.
- For more information, visit Ameren.com/stop-scams. Customers should also follow Ameren on social media to receive the latest updates on scams.
About Ameren Missouri
Ameren Missouri has been providing electric and gas service for more than 100 years, and the company's electric rates are among the lowest in the nation. Ameren Missouri's mission is to power the quality of life for its 1.2 million electric and 127,000 natural gas customers in central and eastern Missouri. The company's service area covers 64 counties and more than 500 communities, including the greater St. Louis area. For more information, visit Ameren.com/Missouri or follow us on Twitter at @AmerenMissouri or Facebook.com/AmerenMissouri.
SOURCE Ameren Missouri
For further information: Missouri Communications, 314.554.2182, Missouricommunications@ameren.com