Scam attempts on the rise during the COVID-19 pandemic
Ameren Illinois is warning its business and residential customers to be on alert for utility scams. Posing as electric, water or natural gas company employees, scammers threaten to disconnect or shut off service if customers do not make an immediate payment by prepaid card or other non-traceable form of payment.
The company is seeing an increase in scam attempts during the COVID-19 pandemic, with scammers looking to use the situation to steal money and personal information from Ameren Illinois customers.
“The economic hardship caused by COVID-19 has left many customers vulnerable to these schemes,” said Mary Heger, Senior Vice President of Customer Experience, Ameren Illinois. Heger noted that Ameren Illinois has temporarily suspended service disconnections for non-payment during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It is more important than ever that customers are vigilant in protecting themselves and their personal information.”
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 occur 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. In addition, scammers may ask you to download an app to make immediate payment, which you should avoid.
– 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 rip-off: 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. Ameren Illinois will never call or e-mail and demand immediate payment. If you suspect that someone is impersonating an Ameren Illinois employee, end the conversation and immediately call Ameren Illinois at 1.800.755.5000.
– Sign up to manage your account online at AmerenIllinois.com where you can immediately check the status of your account.
– Never purchase a prepaid card to avoid service disconnection or shut-off. In addition, never download an app to make immediate payment. 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 in-person payment locations.
For more information, visit Ameren.com/stop-scams. Customers should also follow Ameren on social media to receive