Providers warn of utilities scam

COVINGTON -- The city of Covington is warning citizens to beware of scammers promising to pay utility bills in exchange for personal information.

The city issued a press release Monday stating that a nationwide scam is occurring where identity thieves are sending emails claiming that the Obama administration is providing credits or applying payments to utility bills. The scammers then prompt customers to "register" using their Social Security number and other personal information. The scam is also being spread via social media.

Georgia Power has also issued a press release stating that its customers have been targeted. Customers may be contacted by email, U.S. mail, social media, text or direct phone calls, according to the press release. Customers are asked to provide Social Security numbers and banking information and are then given fraudulent banking information to pay their electric bill.

When the information is presented to Georgia Power's depository bank, the customer's payment attempt is returned unpaid.

Georgia Power urges customers to refrain from giving out personal information if contacted about this or similar offers. Instead, call law enforcement or Georgia Power at 1-888-660-5890 to report.

City of Covington Utilities Director Bill Meecham advises citizens to follow these tips to avoid falling for a scam:

-- Never provide your Social Security number, credit card number or banking information to anyone requesting it over the phone or at your home unless you initiated the contact and feel confident with whom you are speaking.

-- Customers who have doubts about the legitimacy of any call or visit from anyone promising utility assistance or service, especially one in which payment or personal information is requested, should contact their local service provider.

-- If you believe you have been a victim of this scam or suspect your identity has been stolen, please contact your local law enforcement agency.