Scammers call for utility payments

Wednesday, May 22, 2013 | 6:37 p.m. CDT; updated 7:06 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, May 22, 2013

COLUMBIA — Scammers have been calling Columbia utility customers this week, asking for bill payments over the phone and soliciting Social Security numbers.

The Columbia Police Department is warning utility customers that anyone demanding immediate payment for water, light or trash bills over the phone should be reported.

Don't be a victim

The Police Department suggests following these safety tips:

  • Never send cash or money orders to unfamiliar companies.
  • Keep personal information such as credit card numbers and expiration dates, bank account numbers, dates of birth, and SocialSecurity numbers away from unknown persons.
  • If you call the number back and you reach a recording that does not state the name of the company, it is a scam.
  • Make a phone call to the company to verify your information.
  • Ask yourself, "How do I know that this solicitor will use my money in the manner we agreed upon?"
  • Be skeptical and take your time in making a decision.
  • Ask for identification if a person claiming to be a representative of the utility company comes to your home.
  • If it doesn't feel right, it's not.
  • Report any information about fraud to your local law enforcement agency.

This week, a caller claiming to be a utility company employee called four customers of Columbia Water and Light, according to Columbia Police. The caller told them their accounts were delinquent and would be disconnected unless they made an immediate payment over the phone.

The customers did not comply, but instead contacted the City of Columbia Finance Department, police said.

Payments are due 20 days after the date printed on the utility bill for Columbia. Customers will be alerted about delinquent bills by mail. An automatic system calls the customers two days before the city shuts off their utilities.

Staff members working for the city are not allowed to accept payments over the phone.

The billing office can be reached at (573) 874-7380 or by email at

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