Better Business Bureau of Southern Arizona is warning consumers that con-artists are using text messages, emails, door to door sales, websites and word of mouth to mislead individuals into thinking there is a government program authorized by President Obama’s administration that will pay them up to $1,000 to cover their utility bills.
“There is no special bailout or any other kind of program authorized by the President to help with utility bills,” said Kim States, BBB President. “If you receive a call claiming otherwise, it’s definitely a scam.”
Victims are given bank account and routing numbers to use when paying their bills online, after they “register” by providing social security numbers and banking information, account and routing numbers. Deposits briefly appear in victims’ checking accounts only later to learn they drew out of invalid accounts.
States added, “There have been reports of as many as 2,000 people in Tampa, Florida and thousands of others across the country who were tricked by this scam.”
BBB suggests the following tips to help avoid falling for this trap:
- 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 have verified the identity of the party seeking the information.
- If you receive a call claiming to be your utility company or the government and feel pressured for immediate personal information, hang up the phone and call the utility customer service number on your bill.
- Always think safety first. Do not give into high pressure tactics, and don’t let anyone in your home without checking their identity.
- Don’t let the immediate pressure of debt make you too anxious to think through the situation. There are sources of information available to you to give you the straight story, check with the BBB at www.tucson.bbb.org