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Action Line: Electric bill bailout a nationwide scam

by on July 12, 2012

(From the Tulsa World newspaper)

(Story by Phil Mulkins)

Dear Action Line: My relatives back east say they’re receiving texts and emails about an “Obama electric bill bailout program.” What do you know about this? – C.L., Tulsa.

This is a scam sweeping the nation claiming the Obama administration has a new federal program that is sending bailout money to people strapped by high electricity bills.

Electric utility customers in the East are reporting this, and energy companies are issuing warnings to customers not to believe a word of it. Still, 10,000 people have, by company estimates.

Electric bill bailout scam: Consumers are contacted by fliers, social media and text messages claiming the administration is sending credits or applying payments to residential utility bills. Scammers ask for consumers’ Social Security, bank routing and checking account numbers to verify identities. Consumers are then given phony bank routing numbers that supposedly will pay their utility bills. There is no bailout money and utility customers who believe their bills have been paid find they have not.

Tulsa BBB: Tulsa Better Business Bureau CEO Rick Brinkley said this nationally circulating scam “is probably the most creative we’ve seen in a while. It’s been posted on Facebook and some people are actually believing it. Consumers are being told there is a new federal program that will pay their utility bills. Scammers tell them all they have to do is provide Social Security numbers and bank routing numbers. They supposedly need these to confirm identity. The real use for these numbers is stealing victims’ identities.

“What’s worse is victims stop paying utility bills as they’ve been told President Obama is paying their bills through this program. This is the worst kind of scam. It preys on the financially desperate who can least afford to lose anything. By the time victims realize they’ve been had, their identities are stolen and their utilities are off.”

PSO warning: Stan Whiteford, a spokesman for American Electric Power-Public Service Company of Oklahoma, said, “Some of our customers have called AEP call centers about this utility bill-paying scam. Customer service agents at all AEP call centers have been made aware of this and each AEP operating company – including PSO – have added the following message under the ‘news & announcements’ sections of their websites’ home pages.”

Utility scam warning message: “Don’t give out your Social Security number or bank account info to anyone who claims that President Obama or a new government program will help pay your utility bills,” Whiteford said. “Identity thieves are taking advantage of customers by asking for personal information and then providing victims fake bank routing numbers to pay their bills. This is a scam. If you receive a call, text message or other request like this, please contact local law enforcement.”

Average payments: “Whatever you do, don’t stop paying your electric bill because this scam told you to,” Whiteford said. “If you need assistance with a high electric bill, call us about starting an average monthly payment plan by calling our customer service number, 888-216-3523, and pressing 4, or visiting our website ( The plans take your history of power usage and average it (dividing the annual bill by 12), to even out your monthly payments to a reduced, more manageable monthly amount.”

Light a Life: Also, check your qualification for electric bill payment assistance through PSO’s “Light a Life” program, administered by the Salvation Army (918-582-7201) or visit

From → AEP In The News

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