Local business owners are being targeted by con men who are posing as Ameren Illinois bill collectors.
“The scam artists are very convincing,” said Stan Ogden, vice president of Customer Service for Ameren Illinois. “They are using scare tactics and threatening to disconnect electric service if an immediate payment is not made.”
Ogden said Ameren Illinois sends notices in the mail if any residential or business customer happens to fall behind in an electric or natural gas payment.
“Our policy is to always work with our customers to resolve any payment questions,” Ogden said. “Be suspicious of callers who demand immediate payment for any reason. If a caller claims to be an Ameren Illinois representative and demands immediate payment or threatens to disconnect your service, hang up and call us.”
A handful of business owners have already fallen victim to the scam. Right before Thanksgiving, a business owner from Centralia was duped and in early December, three St. Louis-area restaurant owners also lost $500 each. Several business owners have called local authorities and Ameren Illinois after receiving phone calls from an individual claiming to be from the electric company.
Ameren Illinois issued an email to more than 300,000 customers who opted-in to receive email communications alerting them about the scam.
The scam artists are instructing the business owner to buy a Green Dot MoneyPak debit card which the business owner can load with $500. The scam artist has the business owner call them back with the pin number to easily remove the cash.
“And just like that, the victim’s money is gone,” Ogden said.
The scammers are also using a MagicJack device that hooks up to a computer or laptop and works as a non-traceable local phone number to make the call. Green Dot debit cards and MagicJack devices can be purchased at various chain stores.
Ameren Illinois offers these tips against scammers:
- 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 allow anyone into your home who wants to check your electrical wiring, natural gas pipes or appliances unless you have scheduled an appointment or have reported a natural gas leak and the person has proper identification.
- Ameren Illinois employees always carry photo identification, which includes name, employee number and an official Ameren Illinois logo.
- If you suspect someone is impersonating an Ameren Illinois employee, end the conversation and immediately call Ameren Illinois, 1 (800) 755-5000.