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Did Obama Offer to Pay Your Utility Bill? Thousands in NJ Fall for Scam [AUDIO]

It started on the West Coast, made its way across the nation before taking advantage of at least 10,000 New Jerseyans.

Tim Boyle, Getty Images

A scam persuaded victims that a special federal assistance program, authorized by President Obama, was available to pay their utility bills. “They would give you a bank routing number they said you could use to pay the bill. In exchange for that, you’d have to give them your identifying personal information,” said Bonnie Sheppard of PSE&G. “There is no such program.”

And with the recent barrage of severe thunderstorms and damage, Sheppard doesn’t want anyone falling victim to such a scam again. “If anyone wants your personal information, that should send up a red flag right away. Definitely don’t give it to them. If someone comes to your house claiming to be a utility worker and begins to ask you for your information, keep in mind, we already have it. We wouldn’t need to ask you for that,” she said. “If anything sounds too good to be true, it usually is. If you have any questions about your utility bill or about any programs that might be available, you can always call and we can tell you whether it’s legitimate or not.”

“We had also gotten wind that some of these scammers were knocking on people’s doors talking about this program and trying to get people to give up their information,” said Sheppard. “In the case of PSE&G, our employees carry photo identification which is visible and easily seen. If you have any questions about the validity of someone as an employee, pick up the phone and call. Don’t be afraid to ask.”

“Facebook also heightened the intensity of the scam and helped it spread more rapidly as people began sharing their so-called success stories,” said Sheppard. It morphed from an identity theft scam into a social media thing where stories were getting passed from friend to friend.”

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