City warns Columbia residents about utility scam

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Scammers have attempted to con money from Columbia residents and businesses by posing as "Columbia Utility Customer Services," according to a news release from the city on Wednesday.

The scammers call victims with a false utility cutoff notification. The caller then insists upon over-the-phone payment to avoid the cutoff, according to the release.

"The City of Columbia and AmerenUE DO NOT telephone citizens asking for payment with debit, credit or green dot cards," the release said.

The scammers have gone as far as to provide legitimate sounding claim and employee identification numbers. They even have an "authentic sounding automated phone system" that victims hear upon calling back the scammers' phone numbers.

So far the scammers have only used 1-800 numbers. The release provided the following safety tips to protect people from scams:

Never give out personal information such as credit card numbers and expiration dates, bank account numbers, dates of birth, or social security numbers to unfamiliar companies or unknown people.Make a phone call to Ameren Missouri or the City of Columbia to verify the information. A 30-second phone call can save you money.If something doesn't seem right, it's not right.If you have information about a fraud, report it to your local law enforcement agency via their non-emergency number. You may contact the City of Columbia at 573-874-7380 if you have questions about utility billing.The Columbia Police Department's non-emergency number is 573-442-6131.Similar scams occurred in Columbia earlier this year, including fake calls from the Sheriff's Department and fraudulent emails about parking tickets. Supervising editor is Tyler Wornell.

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