For Immediate Release:
July 12, 2012
Residents warned of utility scam
Be wary of new program that asks for your personal info
FREEHOLD, NJ – While the summer heat is probably making your air conditioner work around the clock, you may be thinking about how you are going to pay your utility bill.
The Monmouth County Department of Consumer Affairs wants you to know that there is a very active scam that is claiming that President Obama, through a federal program, will pay your utility bills.
“This is a multistate scam built on bogus claims that the President is providing credits or applying payments to utility bills,” said Freeholder Lillian G. Burry, liaison to the county’s Department of Consumer Affairs. “Consumers should not respond to this scam; there is no such program.”
Consumers in New Jersey, Florida, Minnesota and North Dakota have been contacted through telephone calls, fliers, social media and text messages with requests for personal information.
“To receive the money, a scammer will claim he needs your Social Security and bank routing numbers,” said Annmarie Howley, Monmouth County Consumer Affairs Director. “In return, the scammer will provide you with a fraudulent bank routing number to pay your utility bill through an automated telephone payment service.”
“One reason this scam is spreading is because it seems to work,” Howley said. “Before the local utility company realizes that bogus account numbers are being used, the payments are processed and initially credited to victims, who receive payment confirmation notices.
The victims often share their success stories with family and friends, who also fall for the scam. Only later are the payments rescinded.
More than 10,000 people are estimated to have fallen for this scam in New Jersey in the past few weeks. Last week, 2,000 people were tricked in Tampa and the Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota issued an urgent warning Monday with details of the scam.
The county’s Consumer Affairs Department works to educate residents and help them resolve all types of consumer-related issues. Information about Consumer Affairs programs can be found on the county Web site at www.visitmonmouth.com or by calling 732-431-7900. The office is open weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
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