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July 13, 2012 09:50 PM

Utility Bill Scam

Sioux Falls, SD

President Obama may be seeking your vote in November, but he's not offering to pay your utility bills this summer in exchange. But a scam circulating the country promising just that has thousands of victims and it's now hitting KELOLAND.

With air conditioners working overtime, homeowners are bound to be fretting over their utility bills and that's what scammers are counting on. 

"They're just preying on our consumers because we've had this huge streak of warm weather. People know their utility bills are going to be significantly higher than they've been and it's a difficult economy," Jessie Schmidt of the Better Business Bureau said.

People in KELOLAND are getting automated phone calls, text messages, or even have someone show up at their front door and are being told about a bogus government utility program that will supposedly pay up to a $1,000 of their bill.

"We need your social security number, we need your bank routing number, we want your credit card number and here's what you need to do," Schmidt said.

In exchange, victims are given a bank routing number and checking account number to give to their utility company to pay their bill. 

"They get online. They pay their bill online. It looks like their bill has been paid through this bogus bank account. However the next day, or whenever the bill is processed at the utility company, it bounces back there are no funds," Schmidt said.

But by then, it's too late. The con artists have your personal information in the bag.

"So not only have you given your credit card and bank information, but most importantly you've given them your social security information.  They can go and create a whole new identity under your names and perpetrate bigger crimes with that," Schmidt said.

And like most of the scammers, nobody really knows who’s behind it all.

"And these are large, well funded organizations. They go from one scam to another.  Often times it's money instantly sent to off shore account, they're always out there," Schmidt said.

A rule of thumb is to never give out personal information to someone who contacts you.  Also, you can check out any offer or company with the Better Business Bureau either online or by phone first. 

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