(UNDATED) - Electric bills boosted by this summer's prolonged heat wave spawned a new scam targeting consumers.
Brian Wolka of Jackson County REMC said he's not heard of local reports of victims, but he said some consumers across the country have fallen prey to scam telephone calls.
He also said local consumers generally aren't using more electricity than a year ago despite the extended heat wave. The fraud involves telemarketers calling consumers and telling them the federal government will pay their electric bills if they provide personal information such as bank routing numbers and Social Security num¬bers.
Don't do it, Wolka said. There is no such program.
" Our recommendation is to use our payment options rather than some unknown source," Wolka said.
The Brownstown-based utility offers an online payment option on its website www.jacksonremc. com. Other options are to pay by phone or through its EZ Pay plan that offers automatic monthly bill payment from a bank account, Wolka said.
"When in doubt check it out, by calling our office," he added of any suspicious telephone calls about a customer's bill.
He also recommends calling local law enforcement and the Indiana Attorney General's office if a consumer suspects they've fallen victim to such a scam.
Southern Pine Electric Association reports a few of its cooperative members have fallen prey to the scam in Mississippi, and Mid-Southern Electric Cooperative in South Carolina has reported problems, Wolka said.
While higher electric bills resulting from extended heat appear to be fueling the scam, Wolka said REMC's electric usage remained flat in June compared to a year ago.
"Our kilowatt hour sales were almost identical to last June," he said Wednesday. "I think what that is telling us is that our members are listening to our energy efficiency and energy conservation messages and participating in many of our energy efficiency services that we offer."
Those include rebates on energy efficient water heaters, central air conditioners and heat pumps. Other services include free energy audits and weatherization programs.
"Some customers' bills may be higher, but there must be an equal number lower for our sales to be identical to last year," Wolka said.
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