A nationwide scam has arrived in our area with a twist. Scammers are contacting consumers in our area claiming that President Obama will pay one household bill up to $1,000 for everybody in Akron after learning of the passing of Ann Harris, owner of Ann’s Place, where he stopped to have breakfast last Friday, July 6, 2012.
This scam has been reported in various forms across the country which convinces victims that a new federal assistance program is available to pay utility or credit card bills. In some instances victims are given phony bank account and routing numbers to use when paying their bills online, but only after “registering” their Social Security numbers and other personal information. Some victims have been instructed to enter the red digit number from the back of their Social Security card as their account number. In any event, consumers are led to believe that their bills have been paid when entering the information, when in fact they have not.
There is no federal assistance program to pay household bills. But that hasn’t stopped thousands of people from falling for this scam across the country including Florida, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Utah, California, and throughout New England.
Scammers have contacted consumers in person and through social media and text messages. Once victims receive confirmation of their payment, they share their success with family and friends who in turn also fall for the scam. It can take the companies receiving the “payments” a day or two to recognize bogus account numbers were being used.
Several recent calls from victims of this scam to Better Business Bureau serving Ashland, Medina, Portage, Richland, Summit & Wayne Counties used the bogus account numbers given to them by a friend or family member. Consumers receiving the fake numbers secondhand often don’t expose themselves to identity theft because they aren’t asked by scam artists for their personal information. However, they do help spread the scam when they believe it was successful for them. Plus victims don’t realize their bill remains unpaid which exposes them to late fees, interest, or even service interruption.
Tips to Avoid Falling for this Scam:
- Never provide your social security number, credit card number or banking information to anyone requesting it over the phone or at your home unless you initiated the contact and feel confident with whom you are speaking.
- Always pay your bills with your own personal information; never pay your bills with information that is not your own.
- If you receive a call claiming to be your utility company and feel pressured for immediate payment or personal information, hang up the phone and call the customer service number on your utility bill.
- Never allow anyone into your home to check electrical wiring, natural gas pipes or appliances unless you have scheduled an appointment or have reported a utility problem. Also ask utility employees for proper identification.
- Always think safety first. Do not give in to high-pressure tactics over the phone for information or in person to get into your home.
Contact your local BBB at (330) 253-4590 for additional information on scams or check out the BBB’s complete scam directory on www.akron.bbb.org.