Consumers are told of a non-existent federal program to help pay their bills.
Customers of Potomac Edison and other utilities are being warned of a scam.
All across the country, residents have received phone calls, knocks on the door or flyers in their neighborhoods saying they can receive help from President Obama if they are having problems paying their utility bills through a special federal program. "What they’re asking people to do is provide personal information, such as Social Security numbers, in order to be eligible for that plan," says Potomac Edison spokesman Todd Meyers, who also says no such program exists.
He also says consumers who sign up for this non-existent program are given a phony bank routing number to pay their bills. "When people try to make the payment using that bank routing number to get the credit, or have money applied to their bill, that payment never gets through," he says. What happens is that the customer receives a bill the next month, with a late-payment fee.
But perhaps the biggest concern about this scam is that consumers end up revealing their personal information, such as their Social Security numbers, which could lead to problems down the road. "What this really amount to is more of an identity theft type of scheme where they’re trying to capture information so they can do further mischief," says Meyers.
There are programs out there to help customers who are having difficulty paying their utility bills, but this isn’t one of them. "They can to the First Energy website to find more about things like the Universal Service Program, and different things that utilities offer to pay bills," Meyers says. "Those are bona fide programs. This one is not."
To find more about these programs, go to www.firstenergycorp.com.
Consumers have been contacted by phone, door-to-door, e-mails, text-messaging and social media. First Energy, the parent company of Potomac Edison, encourages consumers to be vigilant at all times to avoid being a victim. The company also says contact local police if you feel you’ve been victimized by this, or any other scam.
It says its employees do not ask for personal information, such as Social Security numbers. Customers should only use methods authorized by First Energy to pay their bills, and don’t allow anyone claiming to be an employee to come into your home without proper identification. Meyers says all Potomac Edison and other First Energy employees carry photo i.d.’s, and many out in the field wear uniforms or drive clearly marked company vehicles.
First Energy says its employees will enter typically visit a home only in response to a service request, and you should not let someone claiming to be a worker for the local utility into your home unless you have scheduled an appointment. You can verify if a person coming to your home is an employee of Potomac Edison by calling 1-800-686-0011.