“Scammers committing a particularly painful form of identity theft appear to have hit on just the right formula to trick thousands of victims: A punishing heat wave, large utility bills, a bad economy and a good story,” reports Bob Sullivan of MSNBC.
The scammers are moving from state to state during the hot summer months, “persuading victims that a special federal government assistance program – sometimes described as a bailout authorized by President Barack Obama’s administration – is available to pay their utility bills.”
Victims are located through social media, and even recruited by door-to-door operatives wearing phony utility company uniforms. It is thought some of the solicitors believe they really are working for legitimate companies and gathering enrollments for a real government program.
The scam artists make a bogus payment from non-existent accounts to the utilities, which generate automatic confirmation e-mails to the victims. Word of this wonderful new Obama giveaway spreads rapidly through the community, appearing in delighted Tweets and Facebook posts.
By the time utility companies realize what’s going on, the scammers have already moved on to the next community, pulling a fortune out of victims’ bank accounts as they go.
People are falling for the “Obama utility bill scam” in droves, handing over their Social Security numbers and personal data to “enroll” in the non-existent program. 10,000 victims were reported in New Jersey, another 2,000 in Tampa, Florida. The phony program sounds horribly plausible to the denizens of Food Stamp Nation… who should, instead, heed the assurances of utility and law-enforcement officials that no one is going to pay their electric bills for them.