Meadville Tribune

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July 12, 2012

Local utility warns of bill-paying scam

CAMBRIDGE SPRINGS — A widespread scam that claims to pay utility bills has made its way to Pennsylvania, according to representatives of the Northwestern Rural Electric Co-operative Association in Cambridge Springs.

Pennsylvania rural electric cooperatives reported incidents involving the scam this month. As a result, the cooperatives warn their members to be aware of the bill-paying scam, which asks them to disclose Social Security and bank routing numbers.

Scammers claim electricity consumers can have their utility bills paid under a federal government program. No such program exists.

The solicitations have been made door-to-door, online and by phone. Customers are asked for personal information and then given fake bank account numbers to use for making a payment on their utility bill.

Residents are urged to alert police if they’re contacted about the scam. Northwestern Rural Electric Co-operative Association urges its members and the public to be vigilant concerning their personal information. Organizations residents have accounts with do not need to and will not call you asking for your personal information. Residents who receive a suspicious call concerning any business should hang up and call the business directly.

Mary Mulligan-Haines, vice president of communications for Northwestern REC, further reminds members and the public, “Our employees carry photo identification and do not ask to enter a home without an appointment. Always ask for identification, and if suspicious call the cooperative for verification.”

Northwestern Rural Electric Cooperative Association serves 20,000 members in Crawford, Erie, Warren, Venango and Mercer counties in Pennsylvania and Ashtabula County in Ohio. The Cooperative maintains 2,650 miles of electric distribution line and employs 64 local people.

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