Wednesday, July 11, 2012

President Obama is NOT Offering to Pay Your Bills

A new scam is sweeping through our area with claims that President Obama will pay your bills, up to $1,000, through a new federal program. Consumers have contacted the Better Business Bureau to report the scam, and while several companies have issued warnings to their customers, others are still falling for it.

“We’re concerned for consumers in our area,” said Warren Clark, Better Business Bureau President. “Several callers have stated they provided personal information to the scam artist before they realized the offer was indeed a sham, leaving them open for identity theft. We’re warning consumers to prevent them from falling for this phony offer that uses the president’s good name to lure its potential victims.”

The scam is spreading quickly because at first it appears individual bills are actually paid. One consumer believed to have paid their AT&T, Best Buy, Progressive Insurance and Time Warner bills.
How the Scam Works:

Consumers have been contacted in person and through fliers, social media and text messages with claims that President Obama is providing credits or applying payments to utility and other bills.
To receive the money, scammers claim they need the consumers' social security and bank routing numbers. In return, customers are given a phony bank routing number that will supposedly pay their bills. The bank may be a legitimate bank and a legitimate routing bank number which furthers the ploy. In reality, there is no money, and customers believe they have paid their bills when in fact they have not. Unfortunately when the phony payments are not successfully completed, consumers may have additional fees for bounced or late payments.

The BBB urges consumers who have taken the bait to contact the businesses they thought where paid and advise they were victim of a scam. In addition, it’s important to file a fraud alert with all three credit reporting agencies as well. The credit reporting agencies – TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian -- are required by law to flag your credit report for 90 days if you file a fraud alert. Then if someone tries to open a new account using your personal information, you should be contacted for verification.

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.
  • 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 on your own.
  • 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 if someone is seeking your personal information or in person to someone trying to get into your home – regardless of how enticing their offer seems to be.
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