City warns of possible scammers

Dan Mackenzie

Ames utilities wants to send out a warning to its customers that two new scams have hit the area.

Susan Gwiasda, public relations officer for the city of Ames, said the scammers have two scenarios that have popped up in Ames recently.

The first scenario involves a scammer calling a customer to tell them about a “new federal program authorized by President Barack Obama” and that the city can issue credits or give partial payments for a customer’s bill. They then say in order to give the credit, they need your credit card, bank information or social security number.

The follow-up then has the customer pay their bill to a “special government account” instead of the city, which can cause a customer’s actual bill to go unpaid.

The second scam involves calling a customer and telling them their bill is currently overdue. The scammer claims to be a service agent for the city, or even a lawyer, and makes demands for the same personal information or even payment on the spot.

“We certainly don’t want people to become victims of these,” Gwiasda said. “We want to make sure our new customers are aware … the city of Ames will never ask for your personal information over the phone, and we certainly won’t ask for payment over the phone; we don’t even do that right now.”

She said July is an especially busy time for utilities. With so many people moving in and out, she said the scammers try to take advantage of the confusion. They target either new customers who may have never dealt with city before, or people moving out, who think they may actually have an outstanding bill.

Commander Jim Robinson with the city of Ames Police Department said they periodically get calls about other scams from across the city. “As a general blanket, if anyone calls to request social security numbers or other information … that should send up a red flag right away. Especially because no entity within the city of Ames will do that.”

Gwiasda said that if anyone receives a call from a potential scammer or has any questions that they can call the utility department directly at 515-239-5120. The office is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.