A scammer is at work in the St. Louis area, targeting businesses and posing as a bill collector for Ameren.
"It's happening in St. Louis, it happened to a business in Centralia," said Brian Bretsch, spokesman for Ameren Illinois. "The scam artist is posing as being with Ameren Illinois, or a local cable or phone service provider and demanding an immediate payment of $500."
Bretsch said some of the businesses have fallen victim to the scam.
"The scammer is very convincing," Bretsch added. "They tell the victim they owe $500 then encourage the customer to go get a Money Pak Green Dot card, which is a card you can load money on to."
The cards can be purchased at Walgreens or Walmart.
Then, the customer is instructed to call the scammer back at a number and when the victim calls back, the scammer uses a MagicJack phone, which is a non-traceable device that hooks up to a computer or laptop, asks for the card number and drains all the money from the card.
"Just like that, the victim's money is gone," Bretsch added.
Right now the scammers have just targeted businesses but the possibility exists that the scam could be used on citizens.
"Ameren sends notices in the mail, we never call customers requesting payment," Bretsch said. "Our policy is always to work with customers to resolve any payment questions or issues they have. If someone calls and is very convincing and they tell you you owe on your Ameren Illinois bill and use intimidation and press for payment, get a name, and a number and tell them you will call them back. Then, call Ameren at 800-755-5000. That's our customer service, and customer service can look up the account and tell them if they do owe anything."
Anyone who receives such a scam call should also report the call to local authorities.