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Utility scam sweeps nation, causes concern

Thousands are falling victim to a scam in which they are told an Obama administration program will pay up to $1,000 toward utility bills.
Oklahoman Published: July 13, 2012

MADISON, Wis. — As much as President Barack Obama wants your vote, he’s not actually offering to pay your monthly bills.

But thousands of Americans have been persuaded otherwise, falling victim to a fast-moving scam that claims to be part of an Obama administration program to help pay utility bills in the midst of a scorching summer.

The scheme spread quickly across the nation in recent weeks with help from victims who unwittingly shared it on social media sites before realizing they had been conned out of personal information such as Social Security, credit card and checking account numbers.

Here’s how it works: Victims typically receive an automated phone call informing them of the nonexistent utility program that will supposedly pay up to $1,000.

Victims are told that all they have to do is provide their personal information. In exchange, they are given a bank routing number and checking account number to provide their utility company.

Only when the payments are processed hours or days later is the fake account caught.

But by then, victims have told friends about the offer, posted it online and, most important, turned over personal information that could allow con artists to dip into their bank accounts or steal their identity.

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