The Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota (BBB) is issuing an urgent warning to businesses and consumers about a scam claiming that President Obama will pay their utility bills through a new federal program. This bogus offer has been popping up nationwide and is now making its way into Minnesota and North Dakota.
“We’ve been watching this scam closely as it emerged sporadically around the country,” said Dana Badgerow, President and CEO of the BBB of Minnesota and North Dakota. “Recent reports we’ve received indicate that it’s now here and people need to be aware of the risks.”
How the scam works:
Consumers have been contacted through telephone calls, fliers, social media and text messages with claims that President Obama is providing credits or applying payments to utility bills. To receive the money, scammers claim they need the consumer's Social Security and bank routing numbers.
In return, customers are given a fraudulent bank routing number to pay their utility bills through the automated telephone payment service. The payment service initially ‘accepts’ the payment but then declines it within a few days when the bank account number is discovered to be fake.
The BBB offers these tips to avoid becoming a victim of this scam:
- Be sure to investigate any offer that sounds too good to be true by contacting the BBB at 800-646-6222 or bbb.org.
- Never provide your Social Security number, credit card number or banking information to anyone who calls you, regardless of whom they claim to be representing.
- 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.
- Always think safety first. Remember, once your personal information is out there, you don’t know who will be using it or how it will be used.
People who have provided sensitive personal information in situations like this should be aware of the heightened risks of identity theft and take steps to protect themselves by visiting http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/idtheft/.
For more consumer tips you can trust, visit www.bbb.org/us/Consumer-Tips/.
The mission of the Better Business Bureau is to be the leader in building marketplace trust by promoting, through self-regulation, the highest standards of business ethics and conduct, and to instill confidence in responsible businesses through programs of education and action that inform, assist and protect the general public. Our hours of operation are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Contact the BBB at www.bbb.org or 651-699-1111, toll-free at 1-800-646-6222. Visit our Centennial website at bbbis100.org.