ST. LOUIS (WCIA) — Energy companies worldwide, including Ameren, are coming together this week for Utility Scam Awareness Day on Wednesday. The promotional event is meant to raise awareness about utility scams and educate customers before they become victims.
“Utilities United Against Scams (UUAS) is a year-round awareness campaign supported by the Edison Electric Institute (EEI) where utilities throughout the nation join together to promote scam awareness for their customers,” said UUAS Executive Director Monica Martinez. “It’s important that UUAS provides resources to EEI utility members to help educate their customers to know how to spot a scam and how to react to these imposters when they target them.”
Ameren is just one of the companies that takes part in this year-round campaign. Company officials said that in addition to this campaign, they also work with local and national authorities to monitor and report scammers and their constantly changing tactics to customers.
“Unfortunately, these scammers are not going away and continue to be more aggressive and sophisticated in how they deceive and trick customers into providing immediate payments and personal information,” said Maria Gomez, security supervisor for Ameren. “Some of the most recent scam tactics we are seeing locally include demanding an immediate cash app payment for a new smart meter or an offer to make an immediate cash app one-time payment to wipe away a customer’s full amount due.”
Ameren officials said these two tactics and the six tactics listed below are the top eight scam tactics they see used against their customers:
- Posing as employees and threatening to disconnect or shut off service if a customer fails to make an immediate payment, typically using a prepaid card or cash apps.
- Masking incoming calls so they appear to come from Ameren on caller ID systems and then giving a different number to make a payment.
- Targeting senior citizens increasingly more, with threats of disconnection or special offers that could confuse them.
- Calling during busy times or times or high anxiety, such as the holidays and cold weather months.
- Engaging with customers through social media, claiming that a charity will pay for their utility bills if the customer first makes a partial payment by money transfer.
- Offering suggestions on forms of payment, including through cash apps, bitcoin or locations of where to get cash cards
Ameren officials offered several tips and pieces of advice on how to protect oneself from becoming a victim of these scams:
- Don’t trust anyone asking for immediate payment.
- If a customer suspects that someone is impersonating an Ameren employee, end the conversation immediately and call Ameren at 1-800-755-5000.
- Never purchase a prepaid card to avoid service disconnection or shutoff.
- Legitimate utility companies do not specify how customers should make a bill payment. Legitimate companies will offer a variety of ways to pay a bill; Ameren accepts payments online, by phone, by electronic check, mail or in-person at specified locations.
More information can be found on Ameren’s website and customers can follow Ameren’s social media accounts to receive the latest updates on scams. Customers can also sign up to manage and check the status of their accounts online.