President Obama speaks at a solar field in Nevada, March 21, 2012. (Julie Jacobson/AP)
A multistate identity theft scam that claims President Barack Obama will pay your utility bills appears to have widened.
According to MSNBC.com, more than 2,000 customers in Tampa, Fla., fell for the fake offer last week.
The scheme was first reported in May, when Dallas-based Atmos Energy warned its 3 million customers in 12 states that scammers had been asking for Social Security numbers to enroll in the faux federal program. According to the pitch—distributed via email, Facebook, text message, phone and, in some cases, door-to-door sales—the government would pay a month of energy costs through credits offered by the Obama administration.
PSE&G, the New Jersey gas and electric delivery utility, issued a similar warning the same month. According to MSNBC, there were 10,000 reported victims in New Jersey in recent weeks, and thousands more in North Carolina, Indiana and Pennsylvania.
The offer even includes a fake Federal Reserve bank routing number for those who enroll, and solicits "success stories" to pass along to friends online.
According to the Lehigh Valley Morning Call, some residents said that their duped neighbors were enlisted to spread the offer. "My neighbor comes running with a paper that had a routing and account number," Caroline Morales of Bethlehem, Penn., told the paper. "She said Obama was helping people pay their utility bills, mortgage and any bills you had."
Although various government programs to assist low-income households with their utility bills do exist, Snopes.com notes, "there is no government program that provides blanket grants to cover everyone's utility bills in full for a whole month."