Authorities warn of utility phone scam

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The Illinois Commerce Commission and Ameren Illinois are warning about scam phone calls that present themselves as coming from the utility company.

The callers in these cases claims to represent the utility company and tell customers that they must make an immediate payment to avoid having their power shut off, sometimes calling for the consumer to buy a prepaid credit card and call back with the cards personal identification number, according to information from the ICC.

“We would never call and give you only one option for making payments,” said Marcelyn Love, a spokesperson for Ameren. “We have a number of different options for folks to pay their utility bill. We also give you plenty of notice.”

Scammers sometimes mimic the telephone wording of real utility companies, and they can also appear as the utility company on caller ID systems, according to Bob Gough, senior public information officer for the ICC.

“It’s a tactic called spoofing, where they can manipulate the caller ID, so that a displayed phone number can actually appear to be a number from the utility as well,” Gough said.

Authorities recommend that consumers who receive such calls take down as much information as possible and contact Ameren at 1-800-755-5000 to verify the call. They also recommend reporting suspicious calls to the Illinois Commerce Commission’s Consumer Services Division at 1-800-524-0795.

More information is available through the Illinois Attorney General’s website.

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