KISSIMMEE, Fla., June 29, 2012 – Forty-seven customers of Kissimmee Utility Authority fell victim to a multi-state scam in the past 24 hours. The scam targets Hispanic utility customers and aims to steal identities and could result in loss of utility service.
Under the scam, customers are being told that President Obama has approved special funding through the Federal Reserve Bank for utility bill assistance. There is no such funding.
Through automated phone calls, text messages, social media, and in person door-to-door visits, the scammers are asking utility customers, specifically Hispanics, for personal information, such as social security identification numbers. They then provide victims with a fraudulent bank routing number with which to pay their utility bills.
Forty-seven KUA customers made payments using this routing number in the past 24 hours. KUA was able to successfully stop 46 of the 47 payments from being released to the bank. If all the payments had gone through, they would have been returned by the bank for non-sufficient funds, resulting in a non-sufficient funds fee and late fee for the customer and the potential for service to be cut off for non-payment.
In response to the scam, KUA has taken the following precautions to further protect its customers:
• Contacted the bank receiving the payments to put them on alert of the fraudulent activity.
• Disabled the bank routing number in question to prevent further activity.
• Added a warning message to its online payment portal cautioning customers of the scam.
• Contacting each individual customer affected by the scam to alert them that their bill remains unpaid.
“KUA issued a warning on this scam back on May 29, but it continues to stick around,” said Susan Postans, KUA’s vice president of customer service. “Customers need to remain vigilant and avoid providing their personal or banking information to unknown individuals.”
The scam has also been reported in several other states.
Founded in 1901, KUA (http://kua.com) is Florida’s sixth largest community-owned utility providing electric and telecommunication services to 64,000 customers in Osceola County, Fla.
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Chris M. Gent