ComEd, Nicor warn of ‘stimulus’ bill-paying scam
By Judy Pochel For The Beacon-News July 24, 2012 3:30PM
Updated: August 26, 2012 6:14AM
No, the president of the United States will not be paying your gas or electric bills.
For the past few weeks, customers in the Fox Valley area have been calling Nicor Gas to pay their bills using the “new plan” that the president has created.
“We’ve had several calls, people say they need the bank routing number to pay the bill, and for the account number they are supposed to use part of their Social Security number,” a Nicor account representative said Tuesday.
The Better Business Bureau advises on its website that this scam is another painful form of identify theft, sweeping across the nation just as the growing heat wave has created large energy bills.
ComEd recently sent out a warning to customers to be on the alert for scam artists who increase their activity after major storms and other natural disasters.
Following the storms earlier this month that knocked out power to more than 300,000 customers, ComEd said it experienced an increase in calls about people claiming to be from utility companies who said that there are federal programs that will pay electric bills. People were being asked to provide their Social Security numbers in exchange for fake bank routing numbers that can be used to make payments.
The BBB said the scam is presented as a bailout authorized by President Barack Obama’s administration for the purpose of paying high utility bills.
Victims are given bank account and routing numbers to use when they pay their bills online — but only after they “register” their Social Security numbers and other personal information.
The scam goes far beyond the Fox Valley. Southern California Edison customers said they were told that for a fee they could buy a bank routing number and with their Social Security number their account would be paid in full.
Southern California Edison said in a press release that the plan is explained to be “under the pretense that the routing number is connected to a government stimulus program that would pay the customer’s bill.”
Similar scams have been reported in North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Utah, California, New Jersey and the New England states.