This scam has made national news recently, so this is a good time to remind us once again.
(Hesperia) – The City of Hesperia is putting everyone on high alert about a nationwide scam that is tricking people into providing personal financial information in exchange for the false promise of getting utility bills paid by the federal government.
The scam claims the that President of the United States is providing credits or applying payments to utility bills. There is no such federal program.
The scam was recently brought to the attention of the Hesperia Water District when they noticed an unusual amount of payments denied for “check fraud”, according to Kelly Malloy, Community Relations Coordinator for the City of Hesperia. “Staff contacted our banking institutions directly and was informed that the routing number used was for the US Treasury, and has been used in a nationwide scam that misled individuals into believing that a federal ‘Stimulus Program’ had been established to pay utility bills.”
Scams like this have occurred in other parts of United States, and have affected customers in across the country. According to reports, scammers have visited customers in person, posted fliers, and used social media and texting to send messages claiming that the President will provide a credit or directly pay utility bills, according to a press release from the City of Hesperia.
In some cases, scammers have also asked for social security numbers in order to allow for credits or applying payments to customers’ utility bills. This presents an identity theft risk.
“It is important for utility customers to always check with their specific utility about subsidy programs, because information may come from what they believe is a credible source, including being circulated on Facebook and Twitter, and in some cases actual printed fliers distributed at various community events by an unknown source,” Malloy said.
The following tips can help you avoid becoming a victim of this scam:
• Protect your personal information at all times, and never give out your social security number or any other personal financial information to unknown or questionable parties.
• Be cautious of scams that sound too good to be true, or promise something for nothing.
• Remember that our employees will never demand that you wire money to prevent your water or sewer service from being shut off.
• Our field employees will not ask for money, a credit card, or to use your telephone.
• Payments intended for the Hesperia Water District should only be made out to “Hesperia Water District” or “HWD”.
• Be suspicious if someone shows up without an appointment asking to check for a water or sewer problem that may be inside your home.
• Do not let anyone into your home unless you verify who they are and see the individual’s identification and know the purpose for the visit.
• If you live alone and a stranger approaches, imply that there is someone else in your home or indicate that someone will be arriving at your home momentarily.
• If someone calls and requests that you leave your residence at a specific time for a utility-related cause, be sure to confirm the call with us. This could be a burglary set up by the caller.
If you believe you are a victim of identity theft or of fraud contact the Sheriff’s Department. Malloy added, “If they have already provided payment information to be used on an active utility account, they need to change their payment information immediately in order to avoid late payment charges.”
If you have any questions about your water or sewer bill call (760) 947-1840 to speak with a representative.