(MOBILE, Ala.) - The South Alabama Better Business Bureau said a new scam hitting the region offers information at a price to victims on how they can have their bills paid for them.
South Alabama BBB President and CEO Tina Waller said her office received nearly 200 phone calls about the scam since Thursday, and there have been several victims.
"Someone was charging $50 for information on how to pay your bills by the government," Waller said. "The government was paying people's bills."
Waller said the mystery scam claims BP, and even FEMA, have funds available to pay your car note, or even your mortgage. So far, Waller said, no single "villain" has been found in this case yet.
"We received a call from a lady who indicated that her sister had her water bill and telephone bill paid," Waller said.
Alabama Power Spokesperson Beth Thomas said some of their customers told them the scammers were working from a tent set up in the Telegraph Road area in Prichard, and others have been contacted by phone, email and social media.
The BBB said, once the victim pays, the scammer gives them a routing number to the federal reserve. The scam then calls for the use of an account number, one you'll find, they said, on your social security card. However it is the number on the back side of the card they want.
"That makes it appear, when you pay your bills, that you're using a valid checking account, your checking account," Waller said.
Beth Thomas said it doesn't work with them, though 50 people have tried to use the bogus account number to pay their power bill.
"There's actually no money that is actually posted to the account," Thomas said. "It actually comes back like a bad check, like a returned check."
Thomas said scammers even asked some Alabama Power customers to provide their real bank account and routing information as well.
Tina Waller said the long-term consequences of participating in the scam are unclear.
"They could face charges on top of the bills they were trying to pay," Waller said. "They could incur late fees.
"We're all responsible for the debts we incur, and no one's going to swoop in and be a white knight, unfortunately, and pay those for us."
The Better Business Bureau asks those who are contacted to participate in the scam to contact their local law enforcement office.