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Scam claims Obama will pay utility bills

Power lines are shown in this undated file photo.

July 13, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
Thousands of Americans have fallen victim to a scam that claims to be part of an Obama administration program to help pay utility bills.

The program, however, is actually a scheme to obtain Social Security, credit card and checking account numbers.

Victims unwittingly spread the scam by sharing it on social media sites.

The scam was cleverly executed, coming as much of the country battles a heat wave.

People from all over the country, including California, New Jersey, Wisconsin and Florida were duped.

Here's how it works: Victims typically receive an automated phone call informing them of the nonexistent utility program that will supposedly pay up to $1,000. There have also been reports of the hoax spreading by text message, flyers left at homes and even personal visits.

Victims are told that all they have to do is provide their personal information. In exchange, they are given a bank routing number and checking account number to provide their utility company when making a payment.

The swindle works because the payments with the fake bank account number are initially accepted. Only when the payments are processed hours or days later is the fake number caught and rejected.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.