Federal Aid to Pay Utilities: Phone Scam Overview
When the weather starts to chill and the days get shorter, phone scammers will take advantage. With experts predicting that this year's heating costs will increase by double-digits in many parts of the country, it's important to be on alert for federal aid scams in which callers claim to be able to help you with your monthly utility bills
For several years imposters have been impersonating government workers and promising to help people pay their utility bills with federal aid. Many people who are unaware of this scam will sign up for the fake government program and provide sensitive personal information without realizing that it's too good to be true.
The Initial Call
You receive an unsolicited call one day from someone who states that they work for the federal government. They inform you that there is a federal aid program which you qualify for. The program is easy to enroll in and will save you hundreds of dollars a month. The program is designed to help alleviate some of the monthly utility costs that you have.
Many people will not question the legitimacy of this claim since the caller may use caller ID spoofing in order to make it seem as if they are calling from a government agency or energy company. There are also many government programs that provide this type of assistance, on the federal level there is Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and on the state level there are a number of programs that offer help to qualifying families.
The fact that there are programs in place which offer these services paired with a caller ID that seems legitimate will lead many people who may be struggling financially to give up personal information.
The caller will ask you to confirm personal information, like your home address, your birth date, and your social security number. The information that you hand over will later be used to steal your identity.
How to Beat the Scammers?
Any time you get a call from someone claiming to be from the government, be suspicious. In the U.S. the federal and state government will not call without previous notice to solicit information from you. We see the same approach in the IRS phone scam and the federal student aid grant phone scam.
The government will never call you to say that you qualify for a certain benefits program and then request your personal information. The best way to proceed in a situation in which you are being called by someone claiming to be a government official is to hang up, and directly contact the organization they claimed to be representing.
Who to Contact About This Scam?
If you believe that you've been contacted by a federal aid phone scammer, you should report it to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Alerting the FTC to this scam will allow them to work towards putting an end to it. You can also alert your local authorities to this scam. Phone scammers usually place calls in blocks of numbers responding to area code, so it is very likely that others in your community are being targeted. You can help spread the word by reporting your experience.
You can also help protect others in your community and around the U.S. by reporting the phone number that tried to scam you in CallerSmart's reverse phone lookup phone book. You can leave your feedback on the number so that others know to ignore calls from the number. If you have an iPhone or iPad you can download our free phone number tracing app in order to search and report phone numbers on the go.