Scammers operating with incredibly bad form have reeled in thousand across the country, telling them not to worry about their out-of-control utility bills. President Obama and the might of the federal government are here to pick up the tab.
A crazy heat-wave nationwide, coupled with skyrocketing utility bills had some folks of New Jersey, North Carolina, and Indiana feeling pretty desperate. Enter the wily scammers, self-styled Obama reps, who have been electronically communicating with their victims, pledging to pay their bills, and even sending people door-to-door dressed as utility workers with pamphlets in-hand detailing the faux-Obama administration’s utilities bail-out program, reports Newser. The convincing grifters give each resident “special” bank account information to make online payments, but only after they turn over their social security numbers and other personal information in order to “register” with the program.
Sadly, a lot of people are buying into it. At least 2,000 people were tricked into the scam in Tampa, and up to 10,000 people in New Jersey fell for the ruse, reports MSNBC. “We see scams once or twice a year, and a handful of people fall for them. But this is crazy,” said a Tampa energy company spokesperson.
In addition to the unusual addition of door-to-door marketing, the “Obama utility bill scam” is also spreading like wildfire thanks to social networking. Victims pass on their “success stories” to family and friends who then buy into it themselves before they figure out it’s a scam and payments are ultimately rescinded. “Once it morphed into the social media thing, it just kept getting passed on from friend to friend to friend,” said a New Jersey spokesperson.
For now, many utility companies are waiving late fees and keeping the power on as they encourage their customers to use common sense. “We’re doing the best we can to alert customers and tell them that, no matter what, you have to pay your bill properly,” said one spokesperson. “I wonder if people going door to door even know,” said a Better Business Bureau rep. “They could be just temporary employees of the scam artists.”
Still, it’s an easy scam to buy in to, and no one really knows who’s behind it yet. “My neighbor comes running with a paper that had a routing and account number,” said one woman who was momentarily tempted by the scam. “She said Obama was helping people pay their utility bills, mortgage and any bills you had.” She wisely shrugged it off, though found it the claim to be somewhat believable. “It’s probably true since he is looking for votes,” her mother told her.
Have you or anyone you know been taken in by the so-called “Obama utility bill scam”?