The FTC has warned the public about a “Pay Your Bills” scam plaguing people who can least afford to be scammed. Scam artists have targeted churches that have unwittingly spread word of this “government program” that will pay your monthly bills. A number of unsuspecting congregations fell for this scheme, because, “If you heard it in church, it’s got to be true.” This is a common ploy used by con artists, associating with a respected leader or group to lend credibility to the scam.
The scam works like this: In order to participate in this program, you are required to fill out an application that asks for lots of personal information including your bank account and routing number so that payments can be made electronically. Simply submit your application along with an upfront fee and you’re all set. No more worries about bills. What makes this scam even more insidious is that the scammer will actually submit an electronic payment to your account, but later cancel it.
In reality, what you’ve really done is give the scammer all he or she needs to steal your identity and any funds you might have saved in your bank account. There is no such thing as a government program that pays your monthly bills for an upfront fee. Much like a counterfeit check scheme, you are now liable for any NSF fees charged by your bank.
How do you avoid this nightmare scheme? Consider the following tips:
- Scammers often use affinity as a tactic to lend more legitimacy to their schemes. In this case, they convince a local minister that this program will help a lot people in the congregation and use him as a mouthpiece to entice church members to participate in the program. Be sure to verify any federal assistance programs, wealth building or investment schemes through a trusted outside source such as the BBB or the Alabama Securities Commission.
- Be wary of any offer that requires you to pay an upfront fee. This is a big red flag!
- Ask for references and proof of earnings or payments made on behalf of other participants.
- With investment schemes, beware of any offer or claim of high returns with little risk to you.
For additional details on this scam and resources for legitimate federal assistance, go to A Government Program that Pays Your Bills? To report a scam, go to the BBB Scam Tracker. To find trustworthy businesses, go to bbb.org.