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New Scam involves Utility Assistance

The Missouri Public Service Commission today warned of a scam promising utility payments that has targeted thousands of customers nationwide, including some in our state.

According to reports, consumers have been contacted in person and through fliers, social media, by phone and text messages with claims that President Obama is providing credits or applying payments to utility bills through a new federal program. To receive the money, scammers claim they need the consumers’ Social Security and bank routing numbers. In return, customers are given a phony bank routing number that will supposedly pay their utility bills.

“People should always take steps to protect their personal information, such as Social Security numbers, credit cards or bank account numbers,” said PSC Chairman Kevin Gunn. “Please keep your personal information private.”

Here are a few ways you can prevent identity theft:

— Don’t give out personal information on the phone, through the mail, or on the Internet unless you’ve initiated the contact and are sure you know who you’re dealing with.

— Before you share any personal information, confirm that you are dealing with a legitimate organization.

— Do not disclose your credit card number to an online vendor unless it is encrypted and the site is secure.

— Do not write your Social Security number or telephone number on checks or credit card receipts.

— Shred documents that contain personal or financial information such as bank statements, credit card applications, store receipts or utility bills.

— Never allow anyone into your home to check electrical wiring, natural gas pipes or appliances unless you have scheduled an appointment or have reported a utility problem. Also, ask utility employees for proper identification.

For more information, you may contact the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-438-4338. The Missouri Attorney General’s Office has a Consumer Protection Hotline to help recognize and report identity theft: 1-800-392-8222.

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