Beware of Bill Payment Scam

July 12, 2012

As electric bills rise, some members of electric cooperatives have fallen prey to a coast-to-coast telemarketing scam offering bogus help with energy bills.

Jackson Purchase Energy Cooperative (JPEC) is warning its members about the scam in which residents are told that President Obama will help pay energy bills under a special federal program if they provide personal information, such as a bank routing number or their Social Security number.

"We encourage our members to safeguard their personal information (Social Security numbers, banking information, birth dates, etc.) and never share this information with anyone, particularly strangers," said Kelly Nuckols, President and CEO.

Several members at different Co-ops have been bilked, and a few even had their power cut off as a result. They were thinking their bill was paid without checking with their Co-op to be sure. Many of the members indicated they turned over personal indentifying information after talking to a person they believed was offering them help paying their bills.

Better Business Bureaus in several states also have issued consumer warnings, as well as attorneys general in Mississippi, North Carolina and Arizona and elsewhere.

It's unknown how many have lost money, and the cases are under investigation.

"Falling prey to scams like this can be costly to the member," said Terry Miller, Manager of Customer Service.

JPEC urges its members to contact them if they receive calls like this.

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