ST. LOUIS, Nov. 16, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- The nation's leading energy companies are joining forces to raise awareness about a long-running scam that has cost utility customers millions of dollars. On Nov. 16, the coalition will activate a social and traditional media campaign to expose the tricks behind a scam that dupes customers into using a pre-paid debit card to avoid service disconnection. "Utilities United Against Scams Day" will also focus on the steps customers can take to protect themselves. "We have a responsibility to help our customers avoid being the victim of these costly scams," said Tim Reagan, senior director of Corporate Security at Ameren. "By combining the voices of our utility peers, our message will reach more customers throughout the country in an effort to prevent more scams from occurring." Last year an estimated 1,500 Ameren customers reported suspicious activity. The majority of those incidents were phone calls from scammers who threatened immediate disconnection of utility service unless a payment was made from a pre-paid debit card. In this scam, a customer receives an unsolicited phone call from an individual who falsely claims to be an Ameren representative. The scammer warns that Ameren will disconnect the customer's electric service if the customer fails to make a payment - usually within a short timeframe. Scammers have even duplicated the Ameren upfront Interactive Voice Response system, so when customers call back phone numbers provided by the scammer, it sounds like a legitimate Ameren phone number. Some of these criminals also use caller ID spoofing to replicate Ameren's customer service number.