Obama utility scam hits Demopolis

Published 3:22 pm Tuesday, July 10, 2012

It may be an election year, but Obama will not pay your utility bills. At least, that is the message law enforcement agencies in a number of states are trying to get across to potential scam victims.

The Obama utility bill scam has touched numerous states including Florida, Georgia and now Alabama.

A Demopolis resident contacted The Demopolis Times Tuesday to inquire about the rumor that the President Barack Obama had passed an initiative through which the federal government would help citizens cover the costs of their utility bills.

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The resident, who chose to remain anonymous, had already been contacted and participated in what she believed was a stimulus program.

The farce is an extension of a scam recently addressed by the Better Business Bureau, which reported that identity thieves are preying on vulnerable Americans by claiming that a new federal aid program will pay their utility bills.

Scammers have utilized phone calls, fliers, social media and text messages to get their information viral. Scammers provide victims with a bogus bank routing number to pay their bills. All victims have to do is provide their social security numbers and bank credentials.

“I want to discourage the public from giving out information to anybody that you are not sure of. Your personal information can be used in a number of different ways to take money from your accounts and leave you broke,” Demopolis Police Department Chief Tommie Reese said. “Sometimes the old saying is true. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.”

For the unnamed Demopolis resident and thousands of scammed citizens in Florida, Georgia and other states, that lesson has proven all too true.

In Tampa, Fla., TECO Energy Inc. reported that approximately 2,000 customers attempted to pay their bills with the phony account information last week alone.

The scam has thus far been able to outpace law enforcement efforts because would-be beneficiaries have turned to social media to extol the virtues of the program before utility companies can trace the bank accounts and find out they are fake.

Those who receive information about anything they believe to be connected with the scam are encouraged to contact a local law enforcement office.