Scheme leads customers to believe the government will pay their - ABC 12 – WJRT – Flint, MI

Scheme leads customers to believe the government will pay their utility bills

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(07/13/12) - It's a promise the federal government will pay your utility bill, but in the end, people end up losing money and giving out personal information.

Victims are being contacted over the phone or in person in at least a dozen states, including right here in Mid-Michigan.

Debra Dodd, who's a spokesperson for Consumers Energy, says at least 1,000 customers have been affected by the scheme so far.

Her office has sent out notices warning people not to fall for it, and so has the mayor's office in Flint.

Jozette Humphrey says she fell for the utility scheme that leads customers to believe that the federal government will pay their water bills.

"I think that was really scandalous for them to even do this and the killing thing is they're hollering about the Obama Scam. I'm sure that our president of the United States wouldn't be doing us like this," Humphrey said.

She received a phone call this week from someone who said they worked for the federal government.

Jason Lorenz, the Public Information Officer for the city of Flint, says if you get a phone call from anyone claiming the government is offering relief in the form of grants, don't believe what you hear.

"They ask for personal information to set up an account. They give an account number and a routing number to people and they say 'use this until you pay your utilities.' When they go to pay their utilities, not only is there no money in the account, but now all their personal information belongs to this unknown individual," Lorenz said.

Humphrey says she gave that caller her social security number. When she went to check on the bill Friday, that's when Humphrey realized she was out of more than $800.

"Yeah, I went for it and I hate that I did because I messed my own self up in there. I had to pay my bill, the check, it did go through and I tried to cancel the bill. She said it already went through and I know it's going to come back as a bounced check on me," she said.

Lorenz is warning utility customers that the government doesn't ask for your personal information and if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

"You know how I'm feeling now, like crap. Watching, sitting at home on the couch, watching to see is Consumers going to pull up. Is the water company going to pull up and cut me off. I can't afford to be cut off," Humphrey stated.

Consumers Energy is also putting out information on their website about this scheme. You can find that information HERE

You should call local police if you believe you may have become a victim.

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