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Consumer alert: Is your utility on the phone, or a scam artist?

Lisle Elsbury, a business owner from Utica, received a call from “Ameren.” He was told that his power-bill payment didn’t go through and that he needed to make a quick payment to avoid service shut off.

Elsbury didn’t buy it.

He had recently paid his utility bill so he knew it had to be a scam. Lisle told the LaSalle News Tribune: “I started asking more questions and I said, ‘Confirm the account number you’re dealing with.’ The line went dead.”

Elsbury immediately contacted Ameren, which confirmed an increase in scams targeting utility customers.

Ameren, ComEd and CUB have issued warnings to customers about scammers posing as utility workers. Scammers target residential and business customers, instructing them to purchase a prepaid credit card, and to call the scammer back with the card’s personal identification number (PIN).

Says one ComEd spokesman: “ComEd will never ask a customer to purchase a prepaid credit card to make a payment on a bill.”

Consumers can take the following precautions:

  • Avoid giving out Social Security, personal or financial information to just anyone who calls you or comes to your door.
  • Always ask to see a company photo ID before allowing any utility worker into your home or business.
  • Be skeptical of individuals wearing clothing with old or defaced company logos. If you have any doubts, ask to see a company photo ID.
  • Never make payment for utility services to anyone who calls you or comes to the door.
  • Call your utility company to verify if employees are in your neighborhood.