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Obama Utility Bill Scam

Article was added on Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Electric cooperatives and utilities across the nation are reporting fraudulent activity related to the "Obama utility bill scam."

Scam Details

Scammers committing a particularly painful form of identity theft appear to have hit on just the right formula to trick thousands of victims: A punishing heat wave, large utility bills, a bad economy and a good story. 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. 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. Recently Santee Electric Cooperative members have fallen victim to the scam, particularly in the Hemingway and Johnsonville areas of Florence County.

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.

What To Do

If you are contacted by anyone trying to sell energy vouchers, call your local police. Do not give them any personal information. Be especially protective of your social security number, bank and credit card numbers, and driver's license number.

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. You should also not assume that you can trust caller ID to let you know where a caller is located. Because scammers may use Internet calling technology, the area code you see may not reflect where they really are.

Never let anyone into your home unless you have scheduled an appointment or unless the person has proper identification.

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'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.

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

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