TAMPA, Fla., July 9 (UPI) -- Identity-theft scammers have persuaded some Americans a non-existent government program can help pay their utility bills, local utility companies say.
Claiming that a special federal assistance program, authorized by the Obama administration, is available to reduce utility costs during the punishing heat wave, scammers are obtaining victims' Social Security and bank account numbers, then sending messages that bills have been paid to utility companies. No such program exists and no bills are being paid, MSNBC reported Monday.
TECO Energy of Tampa, Fla., said 2,000 people were fooled in the Tampa area. At least 10,000 people fell for the scam in the New Jersey area, Public Service Electric and Gas said.
The scam has spread across North Carolina, New England, Pennsylvania, Utah and California, as well, MSNBC reported, fueled by online information and door-to-door distribution of leaflets.