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Attorney General issues alert on utility scams

By Evan Millward, Weekend Anchor/Reporter, evanm@kmiz.com
Published On: Dec 18 2013 11:00:12 PM CST
Updated On: Dec 18 2013 11:03:10 PM CST
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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -

The Missouri Attorney General issued an alert Wednesday after dozens of complaints about similar utilities scams happening across the state.

The warning comes just days after an ABC 17 News report revealed roughly 25 complaints to the city of Columbia about fraudulent calls threatening to shut off water and power without immediate payment.

“With the arrival of cold weather, we’ve seen a recent uptick in reports of energy utility scams from throughout the state,” said Attorney General Chris Koster in a news release. “We want consumers to know that they should never pay unless they are absolutely sure of who is on the other end of the call.”

The Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division asked consumers to forward any suspicious call information to its office, reminding Missourians that utility companies would not demand payment over the phone for an overdue bill.

The division said it was working to track down the accused scammers Wednesday, but new technology has allowed criminals to spoof phone numbers and names so that tracking the calls is nearly impossible.

" There's a lot of tools they can use to make our job tough," said division chief Joe Bindbuetel . "We're willing to do it but the important thing right now is to get the word out right now and let consumers know that they can protect themselves."

Ray Frechette told ABC 17 News on Monday his restaurant, Cat's Kitchen on Paris Road in Columbia, got a call from a man claiming to be from Columbia Water and Light. The pitch was the same, technicians would come later that day to turn of utilities if they did not give a credit card or check routing number over the phone.

" It's just another one of those scam things," Frechette told ABC 17 News Monday. "You just gotta nip it in the bud or some people are going to get hurt."

Ameren Missouri also reported a similar scam targeting its customers last week.

If you think you've been the intended victim of one of these utilities scams, the Attorney General's office recommends you contact the Consumer Protection Division at ago.mo.gov or by phone at 1-800-392-8222.

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