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Phone Scam Claims President Obama Will Pay Your Bills

By Natalie Potts
By npotts@wbbjtv.com

JACKSON, Tenn. - A new on line utility bill payment scam is sweeping the nation and effecting residents in West Tennessee according to local electric company officials.

Authorities said the scam claims President Obama will pay up to $1,000 in utility bills for all residents through a new federal government assistance program. Residents said they first heard of the on line billing system by word of mouth.

"Your supposed to give the red numbers on the back of your social security card and your social security number," said Milan resident Martha Hudspeth.

Tennessee electric officials said they believe utility customers have been targeted in Jackson, Milan and Nashville.

Susan Fitzgerald with Milan Public Utility claims the on line payment service in Milan has received 24 fraudulent payments through a routing number that customers said they received from the automated message.

"Some of the payments have ranged from $300 all the way up to $900 dollars, " said Fitgerald. "I think we had one payment that was almost $1,200 dollars which is almost the full amount, they were told they were aloud."

The ruse works like this: customers are given valid bank routing and account numbers which process payments and initially credit the account, with a payment confirmation notice. Authorities said when the bank begins the settlement process the scam is discovered and the payments are invalid.

"Just because you have a routing number, just because you have a confirmation number, doesn't mean the transaction is complete," said Fitzgerald.

Mike Chatman of Milan told 7 Eyewitness News he fell for the automated message, because the system seemed legit when it gave him a payment confirmation number.

"On this account it said I had $1197 dollars, I was tickled to death. Now I have to worry about somebody hacking into my account and all of this is going to be a problem," said Chatman.

The fraudulent accounts are under investigation and will not be processed, said Fitzgerald. "At this moment we are letting them know that they are not getting credit on their utility bills and they need to contact the authorities."

If you have given out your personal information to this automated message, contact your local police department.