President Barack Obama does not want to pay your utility bill.
So if someone tells you he does and tries to sell you a voucher for such payment, you've been warned: It's a scam.
According to the Better Business Bureau, identity thieves are preying on vulnerable Americans across the nation by claiming that a new federal aid program will pay their utility bills.
Scammers are getting their messages out through phone calls, fliers, social media, text messages and in some local cases, door-to-door visits. Victims receive a bogus bank routing number to pay their bills, in exchange for providing their social security numbers and bank credentials.
More than a dozen Pee Dee Electric Cooperative customers in the Johnsonville/Hemingway area of Florence County fell prey to the scam on Tuesday alone, said Adrel Langley, the co-op's manager of community relations.
"The criminals have been marching across the country, making their way from state to state, persuading victims that a special federal government assistance program -- sometimes described as a bailout authorized by President Barack Obama's administration -- is available to pay their utility bills," Langley said.
"Victims are given bank account and routing numbers to use when paying their bills online, but only after they 'register' by surrendering their social security numbers and other personal information," she said. "There is no such utility payment assistance program. But electricity users seem to be falling for the ruse everywhere, making it in one of the more successful scams in recent times. The old adage still holds true -- if something appears too good to be true, it probably is. Never give out your social security number or bank account information to someone who calls you without verifying the call."
Those members who make payments though Santee Electric's automated system or online with the fraudulent vouchers will not only be held responsible for the amount of the voucher, but also will be charged a $30 returned check fee by Santee Electric as well as a $30 returned check fee from most banks, Langley said.
Anyone contacted by someone trying to sell energy vouchers should call his or her local law enforcement agency. Residents should not disclose any personal information and should be especially protective of your social security number, bank and credit card numbers and driver's license number.
Residents also should not let anyone into their homes unless an appointment is scheduled or a person has proper identification.
Pee Dee Electric and other legitimate companies will not call, e-mail or make door-to-door visits, asking for account numbers or passwords, Langley said. Residents should never provide that information to anyone.
"You should also not assume that you can trust caller ID to let you know where a caller is located," Langley said. "Because scammers may use Internet calling technology, the area code you see may not reflect where they really are."
(c)2012 the Florence Morning News (Florence, S.C.)
Visit the Florence Morning News (Florence, S.C.) at www2.scnow.com/community/morningnews
Distributed by MCT Information Services
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