Editorial - Don't fall prey to phony utility program scamOn a scale of how sweeping a scam can be, this one rates high. It’s a bogus claim that the Obama administration will pay your monthly utility bills this summer. Don’t join the thousands of Americans who have fallen victim to this scam.
On a scale of how sweeping a scam can be, this one rates high.
It’s a bogus claim that the Obama administration will pay your monthly utility bills this summer. Don’t join the thousands of Americans who have fallen victim to this scam.
There is no such energy funding or credit available and customers should always be wary of anyone asking for personal information.
Victims are typically contacted through an automated phone call that talks about a utility program that will supposedly pay them up to $1,000. The scam is also being spread through text messages, flyers left at homes and even personal visits to people’s homes.
To qualify for the money, victims are told to provide their personal data, including Social Security number and bank routing numbers. Once that happens, the victims are out of luck.
CenterPoint Energy sent an e-mail to the newspaper last week, urging it to alert consumers of this scam, which CenterPoint said had already impacted 500 of its customers as of last Thursday.
Officials from several other utility operations in Minnesota, North Dakota and Iowa, along with the Better Business Bureau (BBB), are trying to get the word out and are urging the public to report any suspicious activity to local law enforcement.
“This scam is dangerous — especially in this economic climate. People who use the bogus account information to make their utility payments will find the charges quickly re-instated,” said Dana Badgerow, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota. “We urge people to always research questionable offers like this at bbb.org or by calling 1-800-646-6222.”
The BBB also offered these solutions to protect the public:
• Never give out your personal information to an unverified source.
• Customers are advised to end a suspicious call. To verify a payment or amount due, call your utility’s customer service number that is printed on your utility bill.
• Customers should only use authorized methods and legitimate banking information to pay their bills. Credit card numbers and any personal information should not be provided to suspicious callers.
• Payments made using the routing numbers identified with this scam will not be applied to customers’ bills.
• Contact the bank or other financial institution(s) to report the incident in order to minimize damage.
• Customers should request to see identification before allowing an employee or contractor near their person, into their residence or before giving any personal information or money.
• Contact 911 if you feel your safety is threatened by reporting it to the local police. If the call is made to 911 first, the police have a better chance of immediate apprehension.
• After the call is placed to 911, call and report the incident to the local utility provider and the BBB.