A new scam has been on the rise over the past few months in which scammers are contacting people telling them that under a new plan implemented by President Obama, their utility bills will be paid in full. It’s a scam.
The scam is disguised as a government assistance program. As the nation swells under one of the hottest summer ever, news of free utility bills sounds like a dream come true. For those who fall for this scam, however, it ends up being a nightmare.
Thousands have already fallen victim to this scam in which can occur over the phone or in person. Nicely dressed con artists holding clipboards have been going door to door (or calling on the phone), explaining their “government assistance program” and collecting social security numbers in exchange for fake bank routing numbers. Consumers are told that these routing numbers could be used to pay bills up to $1000, which is untrue. In fact, victims who use these fake routing numbers will often be hit with additional fees once their payments bounce. They could even have utilities shut off if they don’t realize they’ve been tricked. The scam has been bolstered by phony testimonials on Facebook and other internet sites.
Further complicating the scam is that some people using these fake routing numbers initially may believe the payment went though, as there can be a delay in submitting a payment and the payment bouncing. Those who believe the payment worked may tell others about the plan – only to realize they have just spread the problem.
If a stranger comes to your door or calls you and asks for your social security number, do not give it to them, no matter how official they seem.
If you believe you have given your social security number to a con artist, contact law enforcement and any utility you may have tried to pay with a fake routing number. You should also read up on identify theft at the Federal Trade Commission’s website.