TIPS: $1,000 Utility grant scam
By Barbara Perone
If you have been unemployed for an extended period, you know how hard it is to pay bills, due to little savings and the small amount you receive from unemployment insurance.
As a result, you may fall prey to what, on the surface, appears to be a legitimate way to save money, but, in the end, it turns out to be just another scam. Here is an example of one of many of the phony money saving schemes making the rounds across the country.
Scam–Solicitor offers you a substantial grant towards your utility bill
In this con, the solicitor usually calls your home phone; but, in certain variations of the scheme, you may receive an automated robocall, a text message, or a flyer may be placed on your windshield, or front door.
Typically, the sly solicitor starts out being very friendly. He may try to console you by telling you he’s called because he knows you are going through tough financial times. Then, he’ll announce that your worries are over because your local utility company has selected you to receive a $1,000 grant toward your bill.
To receive this grant, the fraudulent solicitor will ask you to provide him with your personal checking/bank account number. The reason – so the utility company can directly deposit the grant money into your account. Whoa, Nelson! Stop right there and hang up immediately because this is a scam!
Legitimate utility companies do offer grants to low income residents who meet certain financial criteria. However, they never solicit customers directly. You have to call the company or visit their website to find out about such programs. Once you fill out the appropriate paperwork, and are approved, the company will notify you and provide details about how their grant program works.
Scam–Solicitor offers you a substantial grant towards your utility bill, continued
In variations of this scheme, instead of asking you for your account information, the soliciting slime ball may give you a fake routing number to open an account at your bank. He’ll tell you have to open this account to be able to deposit the $1,000 (fake) check he is mailing you. At first, everything may seem fine, but, eventually, the account will be rejected by your bank and you will have to repay any money you withdrew!
If you fall victim to this scam, or any other, and think your money or personal information has been stolen, call your local police department and file a report. Then, visit http://www.Fraud.org to file a report.
If you don’t have access to a computer, call Fraud.org at 1.877.438.4388 or 703.276.0100. Finally, place a fraud alerts on credit reports of all three credit reporting companies. To do that, call Equifax at 1.888.766.0008, Experian at 1.888.397.3742 and Trans Union at 1.800.888.4213.