Chicago, IL – July 10, 2012 - On the heels of last weeks punishing heat wave residents across the country including northern Illinois could fall victim to a very serious form of identity theft. The Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois (BBB) warns that con-artists are using text messages, emails, door to door sales, websites and word of mouth to mislead individuals into thinking there is a government program authorized by President Obama’s administration that will pay them up to $1,000 to cover their utility bills.
“We became aware of this scam following a number of phone calls to our offices,” said Steve J. Bernas, president & CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and northern Illinois. “There is no special bailout or any other kind of program authorized by the President to help with utility bills.”
Victims are given bank account and routing numbers to use when paying their bills online, after they “register” by providing social security numbers and banking information, account and routing numbers. Deposits briefly appear in victims’ checking accounts only later to learn they drew out of invalid accounts.
Bernas added, “There have been reports of as many as 2,000 people in Tampa, Florida and thousands of others across the country who were tricked by this scam.”
The BBB suggests the following tips to help avoid falling for this trap:
- Never provide your social security number, credit card number or banking information to anyone requesting it over the phone or at your home unless you have verified the identity of the party seeking the information.
- If you receive a call claiming to be your utility company or the government and feel pressured for immediate personal information, hang up the phone and call the utility customer service number on your bill.
- Always think safety first. Do not give into high pressure tactics, and don’t let anyone in your home without checking their identity.
- Don’t let the immediate pressure of debt make you too anxious to think through the situation. There are sources of information available to you to give you the straight story, check with the BBB at www.bbb.org
For more tips you can trust, visit www.bbb.org and for more information on scams visit our Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/BBBChicago
As a private, non-profit organization, the purpose of the Better Business Bureau is to promote an ethical marketplace. BBBs help resolve buyer/seller complaints by means of conciliation, mediation and arbitration. BBBs also review advertising claims, online business practices and charitable organizations. BBBs develop and issue reports on businesses and nonprofit organizations and encourage people to check out a company or charity before making a purchase or donation.