American homes and businesses are extremely dependent on electric power these days. Many could not function without it.
For some months, electric utilities have been reporting that scammers are calling their customers and threatening to cut off power if the customer doesn’t make an immediate payment. Some of the threats were made in person; others, by phone. Utilities recently have received reports of the scams in Missouri, Illinois and Iowa.
A customer in the Bootheel reacted by calling a relative who worked for the utility, who reassured her that the call was a scam and she wasn’t in danger of losing power.
In some cases, customers have been asked to pay using a prepaid card, such as a Green Dot MoneyPak. Such a request is a hallmark of many scams. Scammers know that it’s nearly impossible to trace money sent using such a card or other forms of wiring money, such as Western Union or MoneyGram.
An Ameren spokesman told the Better Business Bureau that customers who are behind on their power bills are notified that their power is being shut off by mail at least twice before they receive a telephone call. Two pieces of mail will be sent before the power is cut off.
If you suspect you are the victim of a utility scam:
- Ask for the caller’s name and number and call the utility to verify the information. Ameren’s Missouri customers can call 1-800-552-7583. In Illinois, the number is 1-800-755-5000.
- Be skeptical if someone posing as a utility worker demands immediate payment, especially if they want the money sent by Western Union, MoneyGram or Green Dot MoneyPak.
- Never give your credit or debit card number to someone who calls, sends an email or comes to your home. Do not reveal other numbers, such as bank accounts, Social Security numbers or personal identification numbers.
- Do not allow a utility worker into your home unless you have a scheduled appointment and the person has proper identification. Call police if you feel threatened.
- If you believe you are the victim of a scam, call your utility or contact the BBB by phone at 314-645-3300 or through our website, www.bbb.org.
More details are in today's BBB press release.