Do you really believe that anyone will pay your bills, no matter how high they are? If it sounds like a scam and if it smells like a scam, it is definitely a scam. And, in this case, it is far from being harmless.
A multistate identity theft scam that claims President Barack Obama will pay your utility bills is not a fresh scheme on the dangerous rumors market, but it has recently found a new group of unsuspecting victims. More than 2,000 customers in Tampa, Florida, fell for the fake offer last week.
The scheme was first reported in May 2012, when Dallas-based Atmos Energy warned its 3 million customers in 12 states that scammers had been asking for Social Security numbers to enroll in the faux federal program. According to the pitch—distributed via email, Facebook, text message, phone and, in some cases, door-to-door sales—the government would pay a month of energy costs through credits offered by the Obama administration.
PSE&G, the New Jersey gas and electric delivery utility, issued a similar warning the same month. According to MSNBC, there were 10,000 reported victims in New Jersey in recent weeks and thousands more in North Carolina, Indiana and Pennsylvania.
To make the offer look more genuine, it even includes a fake Federal Reserve bank routing number for those who enroll, and solicits "success stories" to pass along to friends online. Note that the payment service initially “accepts” the payment but then declines it within a few days when the bank account number is discovered to be a fake one.
While there are indeed various government programs to assist low-income households with their utility bills, there is definitely no government program that provides blanket grants to cover everyone's utility bills in full for a whole month. So, be careful, and do not fall for this scheme. You may be counting multiple losses and complications later as a result of your identity been stolen.
The Better Business Bureau urges citizens to investigate any offer that sounds too good to be true, by calling the BBB at 800-646-6222 or visiting www.bbb.org. Never provide your Social Security number, credit or bank information to anyone who calls you, regardless of whom they claim to represent. Always think safety first. Remember, once your personal information is out there, you don't know who will be using it or how it will be used.
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