Utility bills scam hitting customers who might be behind on paymentsSubmitted: 04/16/2013

Lane Kimble
Managing Editor/Anchor

RHINELANDER - A seemingly endless winter made for a tough year on utility bills. Some people are behind on payments and that could mean your provider shuts off services starting this week.

The latest scam is taking advantage of customers who find themselves stuck in that position.

Wisconsin Public Service customers say someone will call claiming to be from the company. They'll request money for unpaid accounts, claiming services will be shut down if you don't pay.

The scammer will suggest you buy a prepaid debit card or arrange for a cash pickup. WPS Community Relations Leader Leah Van Zile says those should be warning signs.

"They would not be offended at all if somebody says, 'You know, I'm not sure about this, I'm going to call back in,'" Van Zile said. "It's just a part of safety nowadays in the world that we operate."

What about if you actually are behind on your bill? Van Zile says there are still options to keep your lights and heat going.

All it takes is a phone call or a click.

"There may still be some dollars available for energy assistance, so if some of those folks haven't taken advantage of that program and they are income eligible, we really encourage them to contact the social services office for their county and see if there's some crisis dollars available," Van Zile said.

If you do think a scammer has called you, make sure to write down as much information about the caller as possible.

That includes the date and time, phone number and any description of the caller you can gather.

We have a link to the Wisconsin Home Energy Assistance Program below.

Related Weblinks:
Wisconsin Home Energy Assistance Program

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ONEIDA COUNTY - Prosecutors believe a 52-year-old man from southeastern Wisconsin drove up to Hazelhurst to have sex with a 14-year-old girl he met online.

Robert Weiss  of Hartford appeared via video in Oneida County Court Friday.

According to the criminal complaint, Weiss started talking with the girl on a website called "Hitwe." 

Weiss told the girl his name was Keegan and he was 14 years old.

On October 10, Weiss showed up at the girl's house and sexually assaulted her.

He was arrested early this morning.

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PORTAGE COUNTY - Portage County Health and Human Services says it's seen an increase in whooping cough cases in the area. It wants parents to make sure their families are up-to-date on their vaccinations.

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Portage County Health and Human Services also recommends adults to get a booster if they haven't had whooping cough since childhood.

Whooping cough usually starts with a runny nose or mild cough, but can be dangerous for babies.

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SCHOFIELD - Earlier this week, people found out Affordable Care Act premiums would go up by an average of more than 20 percent next year. In some cases, that could make some payments go up $50 to $300 per month.

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RHINELANDER - The yellow Historical Society Museum on Pelham Street looks like many houses here in Rhinelander, but step through the doorway and see early 1900's history packed from wall to wall.

The Historical Society Museum will have an open house Saturday from noon to 4:00 p.m.

Pieces of Rhinelander's past are preserved inside the house.

Some of those items include a black and white photo of the original hodag, a drum from the old paper mill marching band, and a dining room set made by the Rhinelander Boat Company.

Not only are those items inside the house artifacts, so is the house itself.

"If the walls were empty there would be stories and neat things to see here. You take that, just the neat house and then of course fill it up with all of the items, every room is just a multitude of stories of different items that are in it," said Vice President of the Rhinelander Historical Society Bill Vancos.

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The teachers have moved up to 5 place in the contest. 

They need to stay in the top six until October 31 to win the $100,000. 

Teachers Paula Hase and Elizabeth Kysely, both saw a need in their community. 

They want their students to be able to have the same opportunities as students in other areas of the country.

"In the last five years we have had our resources cut back," said Hase.

 "So it would be great to bring this chunk of money and make a significant difference in a program and ramp it up to quality level.

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 Clinic nurse Christina Paris wants to make sure the Veteran community is taken care of. 

"We like to think of our Veterans as part of our extended family. 

And it's heartwarming to know that we can be here to help them and serve them the best we can," said Paris.

Providing this service to Veterans hits close to home for Paris.

 She served in the Air Force as a medic for 20 years. As a Veteran herself, she understands how important this service is.

"I'm so connected and I really feel like helping fellow service members and fellow Veterans is really important," said Paris.

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