Company warns area businesses about utility scam

GALESBURG, Ill (KWQC) -- In 2018, more than 700 customers of Ameren Illinois have been targets of utility scams and small businesses in the Galesburg area have seen an increase in this. So Wednesday afternoon, Ameren Illinois employees along with the Galesburg Chamber of Commerce are hitting the streets to warn businesses.

Since 2014, Ameren has been tracking utility scams and more than 4,000 customers have reported being contacted by a scammer. Around $140,000 have been paid out to scammers.

The most common utility scam scenario involves a person who poses as an Ameren Illinois representative, calls a customer and threatens to disconnect service if the customer does not make a payment right away.

The company says scammers tend to target small businesses because their bills are higher than individual residential accounts. The Galesburg Chamber of Commerce has partnered with the company and they say they have also seen a peak in calls from area businesses and want to help stop this.

“A lot of money has actually been paid out to scammers,” said Jessica Linder, Executive Director of the Galesburg Chamber of Commerce. “So we know it's an issue and we want to stop it from being something that businesses and individuals are getting caught in the future,”

The chamber says if anyone comes to you in person, they should always have a badge. If anyone calls you on the phone, always remember an Ameren representative is never going to pressure you to pay something right away. Any shut off notices are also not going to come via phone they are going to come in the mail.

“[Scammers] they’ve gotten really smart about it and their tactics have gotten real hard to discern,” said Linder. “So the numbers look like it's coming from a local number, when you call back to the number they may even have a prerecording that sounds like you are calling Ameren,”

The Galesburg Chamber of Commerce is also working with the local police, so they encourage businesses to always call if they feel they are a victim of a scam. This campaign is part of Ameren Illinois Scam Awareness Week.