ID Theft Scheme Targets Utility Customers - NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth

ID Theft Scheme Targets Utility Customers

Scheme claims utility customers can use credit approved by president to pay bill



    Arlington residents are being contacted to take advantage of a new $1000 offer, but it's really a scheme to steal identities and personal information. (Published Monday, July 16, 2012)

    An identity-theft scheme that has cost victims thousands of dollars so far claims that President Barack Obama has approved a credit for utility or water bills.

    In the scheme, someone claiming to represent a utility company or agency handling the $1,000 credit asks for the victims Social Security and bank routing numbers.

    The victims are given a phony bank routing number that supposedly will pay their utility bills, leading customers to believe they are paying their bill when they are not.

    "We've got 365,000 customers that rely on us and over 160,000 accounts, and to know that those people are falling prey to those kinds of scams and were involved in that, it's very troubling to us," said Terry Benton, Arlington interim director of water utilities.

    The bogus offer comes via mail, text messages, emails, door-to-door solicitation, as well as via social media.

    Shae Moore, of the Fort Worth branch of the Better Business Bureau said the offer has "huge, huge red flags."

    "There's no program where the president is going to pay for your bills," Moore said.

    Moore said such schemes are becoming more savvy. Attempting to steal bank or Social Security numbers is not a new crime, but identity thieves are putting a new twist on it.

    "Here you have a trusted name like President Obama connected with someone paying your utility bills, and people really want to believe that," Moore said.

    Officials say people should never hesitate to call their utility company, the city or police before giving away any personal information.

    "The cliche that 'it's too good to be true' is true. No one can get anything for free; it's not reality," Moore said.