Offbeat
12:04 pm
Thu July 12, 2012

Online identity theft scam poses as Obama, lands in metro Detroit

If you get an email from President Obama, saying he wants to pay your electric bill, it's best to delete it.

A countrywide email and text message scam in which the sender offers to pay the recipient's utility bills through a new federal program in exchange for sensitive identity information has hit metro Detroit.

And some are taking the bait, reports The Detroit News' Charles E. Ramirez:

On Wednesday, Warren City Treasurer Carolyn Kurkowski Moceri said at least 20 homeowners in her city have been duped. There may be more, she said.

"There is no such federal program," Moceri said. "If it looks too good to be true, it probably is."

She said the scam seems to be "spreading like wildfire." Her department came across it three to four days ago when reviewing online payments for water bills, Moceri said...

Under the scam, victims are contacted in person, through fliers, social media and text messages.

Scammers tell consumers Obama can provide credits or apply payments to their water, electric and heating bills in exchange for their Social Security number and a bank routing number.

Once someone provides the information, they receive a bank routing number that will supposedly pay the bills.

No such federal program exists. Customers think they've paid their bills, but they haven't.

Lisa Dilg, a spokeswoman for the Better Business Bureau for Eastern Michigan, said people are still being snookered.

"A lot of people are falling for it," she said. "It's pretty shocking. We're getting several complaints about it every day."

Snopes.com collected and posted some examples of the scam's language on their website

The Federal Trade Commission has compiled some tips on how you can avoid identity theft. They suggest you verify a source before sharing information online, and that you give out your Social Security number only when absolutely necessary, and ask to use other types of identifiers.

-Elaine Ezekiel, Michigan Radio Newsroom