Watch Out for Utility Bill Scams
The Better Business Bureau is warning Americans to beware of a new scam that claims the federal government will help pay their electric bills.
Thousands of people across the country already have become victims of scammers who call, text, show up at homes or use social media to tout a federal assistance program that will pay up to $1,000 on utility or credit-card bills -- but there is no such program, according to the BBB.
The scammers ask people for their Social Security numbers and other personal information then give victims a phony bank account and routing number to use when paying their bills online. Even though some people get confirmation of their payment, their bills don't get paid. And those who give out personal information expose themselves to identity theft. (Read more from the BBB about the scam.)
To avoid becoming a victim, the BBB advises people to take the following steps:
--Don't give personal information over the phone. Unless you initiate contact, never give anyone your Social Security number, credit card number or bank account information.
--Verify that the person contacting you is from your utility company by ending the call and calling the customer service number on your utility bill. If someone comes to your home claiming to be from your utility company, ask for identification. Do not let the person in your home if you did not schedule a service appointment. Call the utility company to confirm that it sent someone to your home.
--Pay bills with your bank or credit account, not accounts provided to you by others.
--Let others know about this scam.