JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (Legal Newsline) -- Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster warned Missourians Wednesday of scammers who pretend to be representatives from their energy utility and demand past due payments.

The attorney general's consumer protection hotline received reports of phone calls from individuals posing as power company representatives demanding payment to keep service from being disconnected.

"With the arrival of cold weather, we've seen a recent uptick in reports of energy utility scams from throughout the state," Koster said in a statement. "We want consumers to know that they should never pay unless they are absolutely sure of who is on the other end of the call."

As part of the scam, the callers will pressure the scam target by telling them their service will be disconnected within a few minutes if they do not pay a past due balance right away.

The scam artist then will ask for the victim's banking information or credit card number to stop service from being shut off. The scammers are targeting residential customers and small businesses, Koster said.

While recent reports involved scam artists contacting individuals by phone, scams also can involve phony bills sent by mail or in-person visits to the door, the attorney general said.

Koster said consumers who get a call or a visit from someone posing as a utility representative and is demanding immediate payment should file a complaint with his office or notify the utility company directly.

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