Oak Ridge officials on Thursday warned utility customers to be aware of a new multistate utility scam that has affected Tennessee residents.
A city press release said scammers have told victims that President Barack Obama has approved special funding through the Federal Reserve Bank for utility bill help. But there is no such funding.
The victims are given fraudulent bank account and routing numbers to use when paying their bills, but only after they give their Social Security number and other personal information, the release said.
The scam initially appears to work, as a credit on the customer’s account may actually show up–until the bank refuses payment, the release said. At that point the customer’s partial payment is lost, and the bill is often past due.
The release said there could be up to 10,000 customers across the nation defrauded by the scam. Customers have lost amounts ranging from $100 to $2,000.
The release said the suspects have called or visited customers in person, posted fliers, and used social media and text messages to publicize the scam.
Oak Ridge Electrical Director Jack Suggs said no known cases have occurred in Oak Ridge, but customers need to be wary.
“Scam artists rely on the honesty of most people and their inherent optimism to take financial advantage,” Suggs said in the release. “Because of the demographic makeup of the city and the geographic spread of this scam, we expect it to appear here shortly.”
Oak Ridge officials hope to prevent thefts here by making customers aware of the scam.
Customers who have doubts about the legitimacy of any call should contact the Oak Ridge Utility Office at (865) 425-3400, the release said.