PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — The regional manager of an oil change company said he was almost tricked into paying more than $1,500 to scammers posing as Ameren tech employees.
Daniel Wilson, regional manager of Big Ray’s Oil Change, said he received a call from a supposed Ameren employee demanding payment for late bills.
“We got a phone call, and it said your bill for Ameren was late, and if you don’t show up within an hour, that it was going to be shut off,” he said.
The posers told Wilson the bill hadn’t been paid for three months, and he needed to pay up immediately.
“I wasn’t aware at the time that the bill was paid on June 1st. If you don’t have power at the store you can’t do anything! When he told me that, I freaked out. I was on the mission to go get this money and pay it…This guy tells me that I have to pay it in cash, in person,” he said.
Wilson said the scammers were very sophisticated.
“They actually had a QR code with Ameren right beside it, and it looks legit. And the number – you call it, it goes right to them… that’s not right either,” he said.
But once the scammers requested Bitcoin as payment, he knew something was not right.
“They almost got me. I was at the ATM, ready to put the money in, and something told me in my head, ‘Hey this is not right’ … If they come at you with Bitcoin or any other form of payment, it’s not real. Make sure your bills are right before you hand out that money,” said Wilson.
Maria Gomez, a corporate security supervisor at Ameren, said the company has received more than 100 scam reports in the last week alone.
“It sounds legitimate and it scares you that your power is going to be cut off and it could be whatever script they’re deciding to use that day…They use fear to get you to pay. Basically fear of disconnect is the basic thing,” she explained.
Gomez said the first clue it’s a scam: demanding immediate payment in a specific way.
“We’re definitely we’re never going to ask somebody to download an app on the spot, or get Bitcoin, or to pay for a meter up front,” she said.
If you think you have been scammed, call the police and stop payment at the bank. It’s also a good idea to report the scam directly to Ameren.
“Because we do keep track of it, we’d like to keep track of the latest trends so we can warn people,” said Gomez.