Fraudulent Consumers Energy Scam Calls Hitting Saugatuck/Douglas Area, Officials Warn Businesses
LANSING - Officials from Consumers Energy, Michigan State Police and prominent business organizations encourage Michigan business owners and residents to take steps to protect themselves from ongoing customer scams hitting the state.
“We are aware of over 1,000 attempts by criminals to con small business owners into making payments they believe are intended for Consumers Energy,” said Annette Gardiner, Consumers Energy’s vice president for shared services. “We want to provide the public with information to recognize and report these criminal attempts, and to make sure they don’t become a victim.”
Several businesses in the Saugatuck/Douglas area recently have received such fraudulent calls and city officials are warning the community to be aware of the phony calls.
Small businesses served by Consumers Energy have made at least $81,000 in payments to scammers this year, according to information the energy provider has compiled.
Typically, a caller will contact a small business, such as a store or a restaurant; pretend to be from Consumers Energy; and demand payment within an hour or two using a prepaid credit or debit card. The scam has been reported in 57 counties.
“Law enforcement agencies continue to work with victims to bring perpetrators to justice, but the best defense against this crime is public awareness,” said Capt. Christopher Stolicker, commander of the Michigan State Police Special Investigation Division. “Never give personal information or money over the phone to anyone you do not know.”
Telephone scammers may do the following:
Demand payment within a short time frame.
Threaten service will be shut off if payment is not made.
Insist on a specific form of payment, such as a pre-paid credit card commonly purchased at a convenience store.
May seek personal or account information.
May have an account number or what sounds like the proper bill amount
May “spoof” a caller’s phone, making it appear as if the call comes from Consumers Energy.
May provide an 800 or 888 number to call that is not legitimate.
“Small businesses help form the backbone of our state’s economy, but many of them can be hurt greatly if they are scammed out of even a few hundred dollars,” said Rob Fowler, president and CEO of the Small Business Association of Michigan. “We are committed to helping our members be aware of scams, and encourage them to report if they believe they have been targets of fraud.”
Consumers Energy reminded the public that it does not demand payment in less than 24 hours, nor does it force customers to use a single payment method, such as a prepaid credit card.
The energy provider encourages customers with concerns to call (800) 477-5050. Company representatives can confirm if they’re being contacted legitimately.