"Summertime, and the scamming is easy..."

The American summer of 2012 is hot.

If you've got an air conditioner to keep you cool, it costs a lot to run.

So when you get an automated phone call telling you about a federal program that will help pay your utility bills and reimburse you up to $1,000, that's good news.

And since it's free money, the message about this reimbursement has spread via text message, flyers and sometimes personal home visits.

So you give your social security number, bank routing number, credit card number or checking account number.

And yes, you find money is actually deposited in your account, which is great.

Until a few hours later, when that same money is taken out of your account.

Not so great.

At first your bank accepted that the money was there, but soon your bank realized that the account numbers - and your free money - is fake.

The whole thing is a scam that's set up to steal your personal information.

It seems to be centered in New Jersey, but has hit customers all over the U.S.

The way to stop it?

If someone you don't know gives you a call, don't give them personal information.

Thousands fall victim to scam disguised as Obama utility bill relief, NJ.com>>

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