Scammers posing as Ameren targeting Metro East businesses

EDWARDSVILLE, IL (KPLR) – Edwardsville toy store owner Rick Harmon has a lot to keep straight. That’s why things got messy when his store took a frightening phone call from someone claiming to work for Ameren.

“Yeah, we went into crisis mode; whatever we could do to keep the power on,” Harmon said.

The person on the other line told one of Rick’s employees the store’s utility bill hadn’t been paid in two months. Ameren crews were coming to shut off power to the store if the bill wasn’t paid immediately.

“It was too late. They said to go to the Ameren payment office, had to be some kind of wire transfer. I said, ‘I’ll tell you what, you send your guy, and I’ll meet him with the police and my lawyer, and we’ll see what happens.’ Then she hung up on me," Harmon said.

Brian Bretsch of Ameren Illinois said in one week last month, more than 50 businesses across its service area were targeted by this scam.

“We’re not going to pick up the phone and call you and demand an immediate payment. The best thing to do if you’re in a situation like that as a business owner or a resident is to hang up the phone and give Ameren Illinois a call,” said Bretsch.

That’s exactly what Rick Harmon did. It prevented him from getting scammed. He knows others might not be so lucky.

“What I worried about was maybe some elderly people who weren’t as tech savvy. Anytime when they’re like things have to happen right now, is when we know it’s time to slow down and think it through," Harmon said.

If you think scammers are targeting you, call Ameren at 1-800-755-5000.