Midwest Energy is advising residents of central and western Kansas to be aware of a nationwide scam, where households are contacted and told they’re eligible for an energy credit offered by President Obama, provided the resident divulges personal information.
The scam began in April targeting utility customers in South Carolina and Florida, but has since spread nationwide, affecting tens of thousands of customers in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Ohio, Illinois, Iowa and Missouri.
“While we’re not aware of any scams targeting any customers in Kansas, given the nationwide reach of this scam, it’s prudent to make people aware this is happening,” said Shana Read, director of communications for Kansas Electric Cooperatives, Inc.
The scam typically involves you receiving a recorded or in-person phone call, and the scammer saying you’re eligible for an “Obama energy credit.” Scam techniques vary, but residents are then milked for personal information, including bank account numbers and occasionally, Social Security numbers. Once your information is passed, you’re given a bogus routing number to provide to your utility to pay your bills, which your utility company rejects.
While most people would never pass personal information to strangers over the phone, the scammers win your confidence by naming your utility company, information which is easily obtainable online. Additionally, social media channels like Facebook and Twitter have helped spread the scam, as victims have unwittingly encourage friends and family to join in what they believe to be a “great deal.”
Another version of the scam has the caller posing as a representative of your utility, threatening to shut off your electricity unless you provide your banking information.
“We would never call a customer and demand bank information,” said Michael Sadeghi, director of customer service at Midwest Energy. “If anyone calls you or shows up at your door and claims to represent Midwest Energy and you have doubts, we encourage you to call us at 800-222-3121 to verify that person’s identity.”