A bogus bill payment scam, stretching coast to coast, might be finding its way to homes of local Met-Ed customers.
Met-Ed's parent company, Ohio-based FirstEnergy Corp., is warning consumers about callers making claims that President Obama will help pay electric bills for customers through a special federal program.
"It's a phishing technique to capture information," spokesman Todd Meyers said.
The scam has been reported all over the country and involves customers being asked to provide personal information -- including Social Security numbers -- which is a huge identity-theft risk, he said.
Meyers said he couldn't pinpoint if and where customers in the region have been affected, but he does know several hundred of the company's electric consumers have been scammed.
"We have a large footprint in the York area," he said.
Scammers then supply consumers with a phony bank routing number to pay their bills, which actually remain unpaid because no government dollars are applied to accounts. The program doesn't exist, Meyers said.
"The real danger is in giving your information," he said.
Victims have been visited at their doors, called on the phone and reached through email, text messages and social media.
First Energy has been encouraging customers in those situations to contact police.
The utility company is also offering the following tips to help customers:
---FirstEnergy employees do not ask for sensitive information, such as Social Security numbers and bank account numbers.
---Customers should only use methods authorized by FirstEnergy to pay their electric bills.
---Don't allow people claiming to be utility employees into your home without checking for proper identification.
---FirstEnergy utility employees always carry photo identification, and many field employees wear uniforms and drive clearly marked company vehicles.
---FirstEnergy utility employees typically visit a home only in response to a service request. If no one scheduled an appointment, do not permit the person through the door.
Customers who have concerns, or who wish to verify the identity of someone claiming to be a FirstEnergy utility employee, can call Met-Ed at 800-545-7741.
-- Candy Woodall can also be reached at email@example.com.