Obama Utility Bill Scam Storming Cleveland
Sue McConnell, (216) 623-8964 x109, firstname.lastname@example.org
Sara Jennings, (216) 623-8964 x106, email@example.com
For Immediate Release - July 10, 2011 - The summer heat has been intense and the pressure is on to find ways to cool off. For many, that also means unanticipated additional air conditioning expenses. Scammers and criminals know this as well and they are ready to prey upon desperate individuals simply seeking relief from extreme temperatures and bills.
A new scam has been taking the nation by storm under the guise of President Obama’s name. The premise is simple and that the President will pay utility bills through a new Federal program. However, it is simply not true and there is no such Federal Program. Customers of FirstEnergy Corp first reported the scam in May and other energy companies have since issued warnings to their own customers about it.
In order to provide the non-existent money, the scammers will ask victims for their social security number and bank account and routing information. In turn, they will provide a phony account number of their own to give to the utility company. Of course, when the funds don’t clear, the victims are left with an unpaid utility bill and the knowledge that they just gave their info out to a thief.
Thousands of individuals across six states have already reported themselves to be victims of this scam and the Cleveland area has been hit as well. The Better Business Bureau Serving Greater Cleveland has been handling a large influx of calls regarding this scam since it first rose in May (5 in May, 50 in June and, as of this date, 90 for the month of July). Some who contacted BBB had already provided requested information to the scammers.
This scheme has been circulating via Facebook messages and status updates, chain e-mails, and bogus tweets. However, most alarmingly, there have been reports in other states that the scammers have been going door-to-door, handing out flyers, and soliciting information.
Tips for Avoiding This and Similar Scams:
Never give out your bank account information, social security number, or other sensitive material to someone unless you initiated the contact and are confident you know who they are.
If you receive a call from someone claiming to be the utility company, hang up and call the number on your statement, not the number they called you with or asked you to call you back with.
If someone shows up your house claiming to be from the utility company, call the company to verify. Don’t go by lanyards, uniforms, or IDs (those could be faked or stolen).
In general, don’t spread chain letters unless you can confirm the information is accurate and from a documented reputable source. Part of the reason the Obama Utility Scam is spreading so fast is that people are spreading the scam unknowingly to their friends and families.
Always research any agency or individual claiming to provide free money.
For more information about area scams, visit http://cleveland.bbb.org.