National Utility Scam Awareness Week November 18-22
In conjunction with National Utility Scam Awareness Week Nov. 18-22, Ameren Illinois is reminding the public to be aware of scammers targeting business and residential utility customers.
Since Ameren Illinois began tracking scam attempts in mid-2014, there have been more than 5,000 reported scams, costing customers upwards of $140,000. In 2019 alone, customers have reported more than 750 scam attempts. These statistics do not include the hundreds of scam attempts that go unreported.
The most common utility scam scenario involves a threat to shut off power without immediate payment on a bill. While anyone with a phone number is susceptible, scammers often target small businesses, senior citizens, and those who don’t speak English as a first language.
Laura Land, who owns the CoffeeHouse Company and several other small businesses in O’Fallon, Ill., found herself in an unnerving situation earlier this year after one of her tenants was contacted by someone who claimed to be from Ameren Illinois and threatened to disconnect service if she didn’t make an immediate payment on a supposed past due balance. Land, who keeps meticulous records of utility payments for all her businesses, eventually realized it was a scam when the caller asked for a bank confirmation number. Nonetheless, she says the episode was eye-opening.
“I had a weird feeling the whole time, but was still very nervous initially,” Land said. “I knew in the back of my head that neither the CoffeeHouse nor any of my tenants were behind on bills, but the person on the other end of the line sounded convincing and authentic. Plus, I was very busy baking that day, so I was fortunate that I didn’t give the caller any information.”
While many small business owners have experienced situations like Land’s, other common red flags of utility scams include unsolicited requests for personal information, requests to pay with prepaid credit cards, calls originating from a non-Ameren phone number and offers that seem too good to be true.
Ameren Illinois will never demand immediate payment over the phone, visit a customer at home to discuss account matters, or ask for a customer’s personal information. Additionally, customers will receive several written notices before service disconnection, which is always a last resort.
“While these scam attempts may seem obvious, the truth is that scammers are utilizing advanced tactics that make it incredibly difficult to discern what’s real and what’s fake,” said Shirley Stennis, Director, Ameren Illinois Customer Service. “This week, we’re hoping to shine a spotlight on the problem, while equipping business and residential customers with the knowledge and tools necessary to avoid becoming a victim.”
Ameren Illinois encourages anyone who may have been contacted by a scammer to end the conversation immediately and call the Ameren Illinois Customer Care Center at 1 (800) 755-5000. Additional information, tips, and strategies to avoid scams are available at http://amerenillinois.com/scams.