Friday, June 8, 2012

Scam Alert: No, Obama Is Not Going to Pay Your Utility Bills

Scam Bulb

The BBB is warning the public not to fall for a new scam that’s currently sweeping the nation and tricking folks into exposing their financial information by telling them that the President is ready to pay their utility bills under a new federal program.

The scam comes in many forms: email, text message, phone call, social media post – or is sometimes delivered straight from a scammer’s lips as they stand on your front doorstep dressed as a utility worker!

To “activate the program” and have your bills paid by President Obama, all you have to do is hand over your social security number and bank account information.

That sounds safe, right? (Not!)

Folks that make the mistake of disclosing their personal and financial information to the scammers will be given a fraudulent bank account number to use when they attempt to pay their bill. However, since the account doesn’t exist, no payment is ever applied and the full utility balance remains due.

Meanwhile, the crook has everything they need to steal the victim's identity and/or help themselves to the victim's bank account funds.

The scam has been reported in multiple states, prompting energy companies across the country to reach out and warn customers.  Victims are encouraged to notify police - along with their bank - if they suspect they’ve been hit by this scam.

Tips to Avoid Falling for this Scam

The BBB has offered the following advice to consumers:

  • Never provide your social security number, credit card number or banking information to anyone requesting it over the phone or at your home unless you initiated the contact and feel confident with whom you are speaking.

  • If you receive a call claiming to be your utility company and feel pressured for immediate payment or personal information, hang up the phone and call the customer service number on your utility bill.

  • Never allow anyone into your home to check electrical wiring, natural gas pipes or appliances unless you have scheduled an appointment or have reported a utility problem. Also, ask utility employees for proper identification.

  • Always think safety first. Do not give in to high pressure tactics over the phone for information or in person to get into your home.

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