October 2, 2014

Scam targets Nebraska utility customers, may exploit Facebook friends

Utility customers across Nebraska are being warned of a scam that promises them a deal on paying their power bills.

Tina Potthoff, spokeswoman for MidAmerican Energy, says dozens of people in the region have already been duped into thinking they’re getting a government-backed discount.

“Customers are being told they can make a utility payment by using a bank routing number that (scammers) supply and they’re also being told they can use a series of numbers from their Social Security cards as the bank account number,” Potthoff says. “We want to make sure our customers are well aware that any personal information should not be given out over the telephone.”

The scammers may claim to be with MidAmerican Energy, Black Hills Energy, Alliant Energy or some other utility. The con artists may sound convincing, but Potthoff says you need to be wary.

“This scam is claiming that President Barack Obama is providing credits or applying payments to utility bills,” Potthoff says. “Also, these scam artists are contacting customers via phone, social media and they’re really relying on word of mouth for this to travel. We’re trying to put a stop to it before it gets carried away.”

Nebraskans have to be especially cautious as the con artists are finding ways to make their false claims appear to be from one of your friends.

“They’re using things like Facebook or social media sites to post a message to get people to bite and then pass that information on to their friends and family,” Potthoff says. “If the deal sounds like it’s a good deal and it might be too good to be true, give us a call, give local law enforcement a call and make sure that it is valid before you participate in anything like this.”

She says at least 49 incidents of this scam have been reported in the region during the past few weeks, as the routing numbers provided by the con artists were used by customers trying to pay their bills — with the bogus discount.