Scam artists are claiming that due to high energy costs associated with the higher than average temperatures, households are eligible for an energy credit being offered by President Obama. In an attempt to obtain personal information, the scammers persuade victims that a special federal government assistance program sometimes described as a bailout authorized by the current administration is available to pay their utility bills.
The goal of the scam is to gain enough personal information to initiate identity theft.
The scam artist often already knows the name of the utility company and may pose as a representative of that company, providing a bank routing number for the customer to use in paying their utilities online. Some victims of the scam have provided their Social Security numbers, making them victims of identity theft.
Most people would never provide personal information to strangers over the phone. However, the name association the scam artists use by identifying themselves with a local utility company, along with the offer of a reduction in their utility bills, has been enough for many people to release personal identifying information and fall victim to this scam.
Affordable Care Act
The second scam involves the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the Affordable Care Act. Scammers, claiming to be with the government, call stating they need to verify some information under the Act, and request personal information such as Social Security numbers, Medicare numbers, credit card information, and checking account or bank routing numbers so they can issue a new Medicare card.
Medicare is NOT issuing new Medicare cards. Medicare will NOT call you and ask for your bank account information. Medicare will NOT ask you for your Medicare or Social Security numbers.
The Better Business Bureau warns consumers to remain on the lookout for scams related to the health care ruling. Scams related to the federal health insurance law started immediately after Congress passed the legislation in 2010 and will once again become more prevalent the closer it gets to the annual Medicare enrollment period, which begins in October.
Remember, the government and legitimate organizations such as utility companies would never ask for personal information over the phone. They have the information they need. If you receive a call from someone requesting personal information such as Social Security or bank account numbers, or any other information while claiming to be with the government, hang up immediately.
If you have mistakenly given out your Medicare number, please contact the ND Senior Medicare Patrol at 1-800-233-1737 or 858-3580.
ND SMP is a free service which provides one-on-one assistance to Medicare beneficiaries with concerns regarding Medicare fraud and scams.
Linda Madsen is project director for N.D. Center for Persons with Disabilities in Minot and for the N.D. Senior Medicare Patrol program in North Dakota.