From Illinois Business Journal news services
Ameren is reporting dozens of recent attempts by scammers to bilk local businesses and residents out of their money.
In a single day this week, Tuesday, 65 customers reported receiving telephone calls from purported Ameren representatives threatening to have their power shut off unless the customers paid cash — sometimes hundreds of dollars — to keep it on. Some 15 of those were in the Metro East market, Brian Bretsch, spokesman for Ameren Illinois, said.
Most were businesses, but some residents also have gotten the calls. One of the businesses was a funeral home.
In Alton, Godfrey and Bethalto alone, there were a total seven calls, he said.
Some of the callers were suggesting that people go to a local store to get a prepaid card to use as payment. In at least one instance someone demanded credit card numbers.
“We want to let people know that we never demand an immediate payment like this,” Bretsch said.
Bretsch theorizes that a lot of calls are being placed to businesses to take advantage of busy holiday periods, when businesses would be most worried about a sudden shutoff of utilities.
Tips to follow
Ameren is providing tips to safeguard customers in Missouri and Illinois from scam artists attempting to defraud them.
“This month we are seeing an uptick in the number of reported scams, particularly those targeting businesses,” said Tim Reagan, director of corporate security at Ameren. “To safeguard all of our customers, it’s important that anyone who has been subject to these scams call Ameren and their local police department.”
Ameren offers these tips against scammers:
• Ameren never demands personal, account or financial information for immediate payment. Never give your credit card, debit card, Social Security, ATM, checking or saving account numbers to anyone who comes to your home, calls or sends an email requesting this information.
• Never let anyone into your home claiming to be from the utility unless they show proper Ameren badge identification. Our employees are not allowed to take payments in the field.
• Ameren never sends emails that include attachments, unless you’ve contacted us to specifically request information. Never open attachments unless you’ve contacted Ameren for the information.
If you suspect someone is impersonating an Ameren employee, end the conversation and immediately call Ameren Illinois at 1 (800) 755-5000 or Ameren Missouri at 1 (800) 552-7583. Customers can also follow Ameren on social media to receive the latest updates on scams.