MINNEAPOLIS - Officials from several midwestern utility companies and the Better Business Bureau are warning customers about scammers who claim President Obama will pay their utility bills.
Consumers have been contacted with the bogus offer through telephone calls, fliers, social media and text messages.
The scam, which has targeted hundreds of consumers including 500 from Centerpoint Energy alone, involves scammers who ask for the targeted person's Social Security and bank routing numbers. In return, customers are given a fraudulent bank routing number to pay their utility bills through the automated telephone payment service.
The payment service initially 'accepts' the payment but then declines it within a few days when the bank account number is discovered to be fake.
There is no such energy funding or credit available and customers should always be wary of anyone asking for personal information.
"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 800-646-6222."
Here are suggestions to avoid being scammed.
- 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 please call your utilities 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 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, please call and report the incident to the local utility provider and the BBB.
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