ST. LOUIS, MO (STL.NEWS) – According to the Better Business Bureau, scam activity directed at small businesses is growing at a national cost of $7 billion annually. Regardless of size, location or industry, no business is immune from attempted scams, generally resulting in a greater monetary loss per incident than those targeting individuals. To help its business customers recognize scam attempts, Ameren is sharing tips and insight on how to avoid becoming a victim.
“We take scams targeting our customers seriously and personally,” said Terry Roberds, director of corporate security at Ameren. “Now we see scammers using aggressive and sophisticated tactics threatening to cut service, demanding immediate payment, usually through an untraceable transaction. We want all our customer to know that isn’t how Ameren works.”
Ameren has seen an uptick in the number of scam attempts by individuals posing as an Ameren representative. Usually, the criminal will call or email a business, or show up on site demanding payment or personal information.
“If you suspect something isn’t right, trust your gut and do not comply,” says Roberds. “Scammers prey on ignorance. By educating our residential and business customers about common scams, we can turn the tide on these thieves, prevent monetary losses and strengthen the communities we serve.”
How to protect yourself
Never give your credit card, debit card, Social Security, ATM, checking, savings or Ameren account numbers to anyone who calls, sends an email, or comes to your home requesting this information.
Don’t trust anyone asking for immediate payment. If you suspect someone is impersonating an Ameren employee, end the conversation and immediately call Ameren Missouri at 1.800.552.7583 or Ameren Illinois at 1.800.755.5000.
Never purchase a prepaid card to avoid service disconnection or shutoff. Legitimate utility companies do not specify how customers should make a bill payment and always offer a variety of ways to pay a bill. Ameren customers can make payments online, by phone, electronic check, mail or at pay in person locations.
For more information, visit Ameren.com/stop-scams. Customers should also follow Ameren on social media to receive the latest updates on scams.
In addition to utility scams, the most common small-business scams identified by the Better Business Bureau include:
Bank/credit card company imposter
This scam typically involves impersonation of a bank or other credit-card issuer. Claiming the need to verify account information, con artists try to fool their targets into sharing credit card or banking information.
These scammers typically choose a name that sounds similar to a reputable charity. They may ask the business to donate or show its support by purchasing ad space in a calendar or publication. Then they disappear.
Fake invoice/supplier bill
Scammers prey on business owners and hope they won’t notice a bill, often for office supplies that the company never ordered. In other cases, scammers send urgent notices for renewal of website domain hosting or other critical services, hoping businesses will pay without due diligence.
Government agency imposter
Scammers impersonating government agents threaten to suspend business licenses, impose fines, or even take legal action if the business doesn’t pay taxes, renew government licenses or registrations, or pay other fees. Sometimes they trick businesses into buying workplace compliance posters that are available for free, or pressure them to pay upfront fees for nonexistent business grants.