Lake Region Electric Cooperative is warning members about a scam that may be making its way around the community.
Stanley Young, LREC’s director of marketing and member services, said some member-owners of the utility have been told they are part of a program developed by President Barack Obama to directly pay their power bill. Officials with Tahlequah Public Works Authority warned their customers about the same scam several weeks ago.
“The scammer continues by telling the victim that in order to participate in the program, they have to register their Social Security Number,” said Young. “The unsuspecting victim gives the scammer his Social Security number, and in return, the scammer supposedly gives them a Federal Reserve Bank routing number to use to pay their bill electronically.”
Young said the scammer would then have the victim’s SSN, and that information can be used to commit identity theft.
“The victim is left thinking he has valid banking information and attempts to make an electronic payment online through his local utility,” said Young. “In some instances, the victim may think the program is valid because it will appear that the payment has proceeded when the account shows a zero balance. Unfortunately, these payments are rejected by the bank as a fraudulent account number and returned to the utility in a manner similar to a returned check.”
In the end, the victims are left owing their utility bills, and possibly a returned-check fee, while the scammer has stolen their identities.
“LREC strongly urges our member-owners to never give out their Social Security number or financial information to an individual claiming to be associated with this program, or any similar programs, that are claiming to provide this type of assistance,” said Young.
“Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”
Young said anyone who has been a victim of this scam, or who has been contacted by someone who may be involved in the scam, should call the Tulsa office of the Oklahoma Attorney General at (918) 581-2885.
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