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City of Columbia warns of utilities scam

By Evan Millward, Weekend Anchor/Reporter, evanm@kmiz.com
Published On: Dec 16 2013 10:32:38 PM CST
Updated On: Dec 17 2013 08:52:18 PM CST
Columbia reports utility scams

KMIZ

COLUMBIA, Mo. -

Columbia utilities officials had a scam warning for Water & Light customers this week.

City finance officials said Tuesday they had taken roughly 25 complaints about phony final notices, with threats to shut off utilities, in three days.

On Monday, the city finance department told Kathy Rehma it had heard of a couple other instances of fraudulent calls in the past week.

Rehma co-owns Cat's Kitchen on Paris Road in Columbia with Ray Freschette.

Freschette told ABC 17 News Monday the restaurant got a call that morning from a man claiming to be from Columbia Water & Light.

The caller said the bill was past due and the call was the final notice before Water & Light cut their services.

But, fear not said the caller, he could get the problem taken care of if Rehma gave him a credit card number or check routing number.

"It's just another one of those scam things," Freschette said. "You just have to nip it in the bud or some people are going to get hurt."

Columbia police had been notified of the calls Monday night and Rehma said she called the state attorney general.

"You'll never get a bill from Water & Light directly and you will never have a Water & Light employee contacting you," said spokesperson Connie Kacprowicz. "It will be a city of Columbia bill or an automated phone call, but never a person calling you directly."

Kacprowicz added that city employees will not process a payment over the phone, though there is a hotline to pay bills via phone.

It's not the first time scammers have targeted Columbia Water & Light customers, similar calls were reported nationwide in May.

The calls come just after Ameren reported a similar scam, with calls going to its customers claiming their electricity will be cut off if they do not pay.

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