Don't let the heat get to your brain: Thousands from New Jersey to North Carolina to Indiana have been taken in by a scam suggesting the federal government is oh-so-graciously willing to cover your out-of-control utility bill. In addition to electronically communicating with victims, scammers are sending associates door to door, sometimes dressed as utility workers, to inform residents of the fake Obama administration program and hand out pamphlets. They give residents special (ie, bogus) bank account information to use in online payments after said residents pony up their Social Security numbers and personal info as a means of registering for the program.
"We see scams once or twice a year, and a handful of people fall for them. But this is crazy," says a rep for Tampa's TECO, where 2,000 people tried to use fake payment information over just 24 hours last week. MSNBC posits that the door-to-door tactic may be playing a big role in the scammers' success, reeling in consumers who might be wary of the same claim received via email. Victims are also spreading the scam themselves, telling neighbors about the "program" after the fake numbers appear to initially work; in TECO's case, 400 payments went through before it caught on.