Texas AG: Don't Fall For the Utility Payment Scam

The Texas Attorney General's Office is warning folks about yet another identity theft wave that's been separating people from their money: the so-called utility bill payment scam.

The AG's Office writes that "using in-person solicitations, social media, fliers, phone calls and text messages, scammers are contacting customers and claiming that a new federal program established by the Obama Administration is providing free utility bill payment credits or applying payments on customers' behalf."

And all that's needed is -- guess what? -- your Social Security and bank routing numbers. In return, the victim is given a "Federal Reserve bank routing number" to pay his utility bills.

Here's what the AG's Office advises, should you be contacted by one of these assholes: don't give that kind of personal information to "anyone who requests it during an unsolicited phone call or in-home visit." Also, if said caller/visitor says it's OK to give them the info because they work for the local utility company, "call recipients should hang up the phone and call the customer-service number on their utility bill." (We sorta like how they lift out the part about "...and patiently wait four hours before you reach an actual human being.")

Also, don't allow anyone in your house to check the wiring, gas lines, or appliances "unless an appointment has been scheduled or a utility problem has been reported. Anytime a utility employee arrives at a residence, the occupant should require that the employee produce proper identification." (Like, say, their Social Security and bank routing numbers -- HEY-OH!).

It's a shame that scumbags like this are preying on the naive and unsophisticated. Now if you'll excuse us, we have to get back to e-mailing this deposed Nigerian prince.

KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Contributor Craig Malisow covers crooks, quacks, animal abusers, elected officials, and other assorted people for the Houston Press.
Contact: Craig Malisow