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Avoid utility bill scam

Article was added on Saturday, September 01, 2012

Floyd L. Keels - ThumbnailRecently Santee Electric Cooperative members have fallen victim to utility bill scams, particularly in the Hemingway and Johnsonville areas of Florence County. It is imperative to us at SEC that all our members are aware of the fraudulent activity so as few people are affected as possible.

Scammers committing this crime appear to have hit on just the right formula to trick thousands of victims across the southeastern United States out of their hard earned money during a punishing heat wave causing larger than normal utility bills during such a bad economy.

The criminals, some calling on the telephone and others going door-to-door, trick victims into believing that there is a special federal government assistance program - sometimes described as a bailout authorized by President Barack Obama's administration - available to pay their utility bills. Victims are given bank account and routing numbers to use when paying their bills online in exchange for cash. Only after they "register" by surrendering their Social Security numbers and other personal information, do they realize it is a scam and their electric bill in fact is still due.

We want you to know there is no such utility payment assistance program. The old adage still holds true - if something appears too good to be true, it probably is. Never give out your social security number, bank account information, credit card numbers or driver's license number to someone who calls or visits your home unexpectedly. And always check for proper identification from people who have scheduled an appointment with you.

If you are contacted by anyone trying to sell energy vouchers, call your local police. Legitimate companies will not call, email or go door to door asking for your account number or password, so keep your account information to yourself.

Co-op members should be aware and know that these phone calls or door-to-door visits are not valid. If members make payments though Santee Electric Cooperative's automated system or online with these fraudulent vouchers, they will not only be held responsible for the amount of the voucher, but will be charged a $30 returned check fee by Santee Electric as well as a $30 returned check fee from most banks. Don't put yourself at risk!

Please call 1-800-922-1604 with any questions and warn neighbors, friends and relatives who may be susceptible to these types of scams.

Floyd L. Keels
President and Chief Executive Officer

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