Utility bill scam spreads

Monday, July 23, 2012

Vectren and Duke Energy are warning utility customers about a new multi-state scam involving payment of a variety of utility bills.

Beginning in May, customers nationwide began receiving phone calls, text messages and social media requests from the scamming individuals stating that there is a federal program from President Obama that will pay utility bills.

To accept the assistance, customers are then asked to provide social security, credit card and bank routing numbers.

As confirmation, customers are given fraudulent bank account numbers that they are told to use when paying their utility bills, leading some to believe they have paid their bills when they have not.

The scam works, Vectren's Chase Kelley said, because of perception of the President's administration.

"Given the past few years, there's just been a repeated effort by the Obama Administration to do more to help," Kelley said.

Kelley said the calls Vectren had received came before the customer was scammed. Duke customers have not been as fortunate

"Duke Energy has had several people fall victim to it," Duke Media contact Tina Worley said.

The Better Business Bureau across the nation is working to educate consumers.

Consumers can help protect themselves by following these tips, provided by BBB:

- Never provide your social security number, credit card number or banking information to anyone unless you initiated the contact and feel confident with whom you are speaking

- If you receive a call claiming to be your utility company and feel pressured for immediate payment or personal information, hang up and call the customer service on your utility bill.

- Never allow anyone into your home to check wiring, gas lines or appliances unless you have scheduled an appointment, and always ask for proper identification.

- Always think safety first. Do not give in to high pressure tactics over the phone or in person.

Duke recommends customers to visit the BBB website at www.bbb.org, and Vectren recommends customers call (800) 227-1376 to verify requests.

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