Ameren Illinois is rolling out a comprehensive public awareness campaign to help prevent its business and residential customers from becoming victims of a scam. The multi-media campaign culminates on November 15 in alignment with other North American utilities which are observing Utilities United Against Scams Awareness Day.
As part of its campaign, more than 100 Ameren Illinois employees will be visiting several small retail and commercial family businesses in Belleville, Carbondale, Champaign, Decatur, Peoria and Quincy to generate overall awareness and provide these customers with useful tips for identifying and preventing utility scams. Ameren Illinois employees visiting with businesses will have their Ameren ID badges in plain view.
In addition, the company will be sharing information with other businesses across the state and educating residential customers through social media. Partner organizations, including the Illinois Retail Merchants Association, Illinois State Chamber of Commerce, local chambers and business service organizations are supporting the effort by providing resources to their members.
In the last four years, more than 3,000 Ameren Illinois customers have reported being scammed or the victims of an attempted scam. The most common scheme involves a person who poses as an Ameren Illinois representative, calls a customer, and threatens to disconnect the customer's electric service if the customer does not make an immediate payment (usually through a prepaid credit card).
Small businesses are frequent targets because they yield higher dollar amounts than individual residential accounts and business owners fear having their power shut off during busy times of the day. Scams have cost Ameren Illinois customers nearly $75,000 since 2013.
“This is a growing challenge that many utility companies throughout the country are experiencing," said Ameren Illinois Chairman and President Richard J. Mark. "Scam artists have become increasingly sophisticated with their tactics. They can be very convincing."
Mark said that Ameren Illinois is diligent in reminding its customers that the company will never demand payment over the phone or ask for a customer's personal information.
"We know we're not going to prevent every scam, but our goal with this initiative is to raise awareness and help our customers to be alert and vigilant in protecting their information," Mark added.
Campaign partners will share red flags that are warning signs of a scam attempt:
"Anyone who suspects that they have been contacted by an imposter should hang up the phone or close the door and call us immediately at 800-755-5000," said Shirley Stennis, Director of Customer Service for Ameren Illinois. "We can't stress enough that our customers are the first and best line of defense in preventing these scams."
Customers are urged to visit Ameren.com/stop-scams for guidance on avoiding scams. Customers can also follow Ameren Illinois on social media to receive the latest updates on fraudulent account activity.
About Ameren Illinois
Ameren Illinois delivers energy to 1.2 million electric and 816,000 natural gas customers throughout central and southern Illinois. Our service territory covers more than 1,200 communities and 43,700 square miles and our mission is to power the quality of life. For more information, visit AmerenIllinois.com. Follow us on Twitter @AmerenIllinois and Facebook.