residents believing they were getting a helping hand from the federal government instead have fallen prey to identity thieves, police said.
"It's a nationwide thing," Detective Chris Schott of the scam that recently hit Joliet.
"People are under the assumption there's a federal program" to help them with their water bills, Schott explained. In exchange for a social security number, victims are given a bank account number to provide to their water supplier.
Some victims were told they were getting assistance through a new program instituted by President Obama, the detective said.
The city billing department was given this bank account number by numerous residents on Monday, Schott said. It turns out the bank account number doesn't exist.
Not only are the residents still on the hook for their water bill and whatever late fees they may have accrued, its likely their financial identities appropriated.
"There will be a high probability," Schott said.
Residents of Detroit also have been hit by this scam, according to the Detroit News:
"Victims have been contacted in person, through fliers, social media and text messages. The scammers tell consumers President Obama can provide credits or apply payments to their water bills in exchange for their social security number and bank routing number."
Many of the Jolietans bilked in the water bill con said they heard about the phony program through "word of mouth," Schott said.
In warning residents about the scam, Schott also advised it is not a good idea to give out your social security number.