ST. LOUIS (KTVI) – Ameren has issued a warning about scammers threatening to shut off people’s power, unless they pay up. Ameren reports a big spike in this sort of scam: about 100 cases in Missouri and Illinois this week, compared to fewer than 20 last week.
Everything looks and sounds legit to the victims. FOX 2 caught one scammer in the act.
It all sounded real enough to put Terry Beaubien into a panic Wednesday morning.
A worker at the business that shares her building called her as she was getting ready for an ultra-busy day at her restaurant: State Street Market in Aton.
“They called me and said, ‘Terri did you pay the electric bill?’ I said, ‘yes, I paid the electric bill.’ They said, ‘well, they’re going to cut it off in 30 minutes’. I’d just gotten out of the shower and I said, ‘no, no, no, no’,” Beaubien said.
She swore she paid the bill last week. The scammer’s Caller ID said “Ameren”. She called the number and nearly fell for it.
The call was answered by an official sounding recording explaining which button to push from a menu of options.
“It looks like an Ameren phone number,” said Tim Reagan, Ameren’s Director of Corporate Security. “When they call that number back, it’s actually calling the scammer’s phone.” “I would like to shout from rooftops: Ameren will never call you and ask for payment.”
“We are so busy with the holidays and all of our holiday parties and everything else that we have going on right now that there was a part of me that thought, ‘did I pay that bill?’” Beaubien said.
FOX 2 called the “844” number the scammer gave Beaubien. After choosing “option 3” for “billing and payments” a man answered, “Thank you so much for calling how may I assist you?”
“I was calling about this number that was given to me as an Ameren number. Is this Ameren?” FOX 2 asked.
“Absolutely,” the man answered.
“It is absolutely Ameren? What’s your name?” FOX 2 asked.
The man hung up.
The scammer gave Beaubien an address in Cape Girardeau to pay in person.
When she called the number on her actual bill, she discovered she had already paid.
Ameren only tries to collect by mail and automated phone; not in person, not by e-mail.
If you suspect a scam report it to Ameren IL by calling (800) 755-5000 and Ameren MO by calling (800) 552-7583.
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.