Police on Tuesday issued their second alert in as many days concerning a scam that tries to fleece utility customers.
Police say Ameren Missouri customers are being told their accounts are about to be disconnected because of late payments. The customers were asked to buy a prepaid money card for an account that was in good standing. This is similar to a scheme police warned about on Monday in which city utility customers were told the same thing. Another scheme involves phony IRS representatives threatening victims with arrest for illegally sending money overseas.
Utility scams are not uncommon. According to the FBI, similar scams were reported in San Diego in March and Oklahoma City in January. Those scams also involved callers telling utility customers to pay off their bills using prepaid cards or face shutoffs.
Columbia police say a good rule of thumb to use is this: If something doesn't seem right, it's not right. You should never send cash or money orders or provide personal information such as bank accounts, dates of birth or Social Security numbers. Legitimate companies will not pressure you to make a snap decision.
Authorities say Ameren Missouri sends disconnect notices by mail on official letterhead, never by phone, or in person. City of Columbia employees cannot take payments over the phone.