Columbia Police Department warns of utility bill phone scam

7 months 2 weeks 4 days ago November 09, 2016 Nov 9, 2016 Wednesday, November 09 2016 Wednesday, November 09, 2016 7:10:00 PM CST in Continuous News
By: Claire Kopsky, KOMU 8 Reporter

COLUMBIA- The Columbia Police Department is warning people about a new phone scam.

CPD took to Facebook, posting that someone is calling business owners, saying they're calling from Columbia Water and Light.

The scammer contacts the business to say its utility bill is past due. They say in order to keep the electricity turned on, the owner needs to go to Walmart to get an American Express voucher for $500. Additionally, the scammer offers businesses to pay the bill over the phone with a debit or credit card.

When asked to identify the businesses who received the phone call, the Columbia Police Department said it has no further information.

Columbia’s Water and Light Department’s Columbia Utilities Assistant Director Jim Windsor confirmed the city is not calling people for overdue bills.

"If there is a human asking you for money, it is not from the City of Columbia because regardless of what they’re telling you, our crews do not accept money. Even if you were going to be cut off, our crew are instructed not to take money," said Windsor.

He also expressed why customers may be inclined to give into this type of scam over others.

Windsor said, "If somebody thinks they’re going to have their utilities shut off, that’s kind of a motivation to say, you know, 'my gosh, I need to give some money.'"

When a bill is due, Windsor said customers have multiple options to pay, inclduing coming to the cashier's office inside the city building, submitting their payment in the dropbox, paying online or calling it in through their phone system.

The City of Columbia has experienced this kind of scam before. Windsor said it happens especially when the weather changes and customers might have a large bill due.

Until the scam subsides, the city is reminding residents not to give personal information over the phone.

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