Internet scams are hitting utility companies just as hard as social security, credit cards, and online shopping sites. In conjunction with National Utility Scam Awareness Week this week, Ameren Illinois is providing information to the public about scammers targeting small business owners and homeowners.
Arleen Williams, spokesperson for Ameren, outlines what some of those scams look like. “The scams threaten service disconnection to electric and natural gas customers if immediate payment is not made. Since Ameren-Illinois began tracking utility scams in mid-2014, there have been more than 5,000 scams costing customers upward of $140,000.”
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.
Williams describes a red flag for a utility scam: “An immediate red flag is the threat to disconnect service if immediate payment is not made. Ameren-Illinois does not do this. Disconnect notices are sent through the mail and customers will always have at least a week to make arrangements on outstanding amounts owed.”
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.
Williams says that scammers will often ask victims to purchase pre-paid cards at a store and then provide information on the card. Scammers will then drain the funds from the account.
To call and report a utility scam involving Ameren, call the Ameren Illinois Customer Care Center at 1-800-755-5000. The representatives will immediately be able to verify your account status if there is ever any questions. Williams says the Customer Care Center is also a way to report any details about a utility scam that you may have been subject to. She says its a great way to provide information so that Ameren and authorities can combat the scams to other customers. Additional information, tips, and strategies to avoid scams are available at http://amerenillinois.com/scams.