A utility scam claiming that the government is providing funds to help consumers pay their utility bills is sweeping the nation. Impostors contact power company customers through telephone calls, mail, fliers, email, text messages, social media and in person.

The impostor convinces the victim to relay personal information by claiming the victim is eligible to receive cash benefits.

After the victims provide their social security number, credit card number and bank information the victim is given a bank account and routing number to use when paying utility bills.

The bank account and routing numbers provided by the con artist are not real. Victims of the scam assume their utility bills are being paid by the fictitious government bank account. There is no direct or immediate financial loss to the victims but the victims are susceptible to identity theft because they gave out personal information. Also, utility bills will be overdue.

The majority of the people being victimized are elderly. This information should be shared with family and friends.

To avoid trouble do not give personal or sensitive information unless you know the person and are confident of their legitimacy.

Do not allow anyone into your home unless they have official identification.

Do not open the door for utility personnel unless you have an appointment or have reported a problem.

If you think you have been a victim of this scam contact your bank and the three national credit bureaus: Equifax at 800-685-1111, Experian at 888-397-3742 and TransUnion at 800-888-4213 and put a fraud alert on your account.

Contact the Federal Trade Commission and register an identify theft complaint at 877-438-4338 or www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov.