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Monmouth County Warns of Utility Scam

Program asks for personal info

At a time of year when air conditioning systems send electric bills through the roof, Monmouth County is advising residents to be aware of a scam aimed at emptying their wallet rather than dropping their bill.

The scam reportedly involves those involved telling their victims they are with a federal program that will pay their electric bills.

"This is a multi-state scam built on bogus claims that the president is providing credits or applying payments to utility bills," Freeholder Lillian G. Burry said in a release.                     

Burry, who also serves as the liaison to the county's Department of Consumer Affairs said no such program exists, and residents should be aware of that fact in case they are contacted.

So far the scam has been reported not only in New Jersey but also Florida, Minnesota and North Dakota. The county said victims are being contacted by phone, fliers, social media and text messages. 

Annmarie Howley, the director of consumer affairs for the county, said residents should be aware if they are called.

"To receive the money, a scammer will claim he needs your Social Security and bank routing numbers," she said. "In return, the scammer will provide you with a fraudulent bank routing number to pay your utility bill through an automated telephone payment service."

Howley said so far the scammers have been successful in getting money from their victims. "Before the local utility company realizes that bogus account numbers are being used, the payments are processed and initially credited to victims, who receive payment confirmation notices."

The county estimates more than 10,000 people have been a victim in New Jersey alone within the past few weeks. There were reportedly 2,000 victims last week in the Tampa area alone. 

For more information about this scam and other consumer-related issues residents are encouraged to contact the Consumer Affairs Department through the county website or by calling 732-431-7900.

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