GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The Better Business Bureau (BBB) and Consumers Energy are urging users to watch out for a growing utility scam that has cost some customers $52,000.
According to a press release from the BBB, the new scam involves a person calling a business claiming to be from Consumers. The caller says the business has an overdue bill and that their utilities will be shut off it the payment isn't made immediately.
Consumers has seen an uptick in scam calls during the last two months and say some customers have paid more money to scammers in 2019 -- over $52,000 -- than they did in 2018. Through mid-December, statistics from Consumers show most of the scammed customers, 12, are in Kent County but followed closely by Allegan County (seven) and Kalamazoo County (five).
Consumers Energy has received information on 76 incidents where scammers were paid by customers in 2019. The Better Business Bureau has also received a number of reports regarding this scam.
“Unfortunately, these scammers are very convincing and can quickly coerce customers into paying money,” said Christopher Bush, Consumers Energy’s director of corporate security.
“If you receive a scam call or are unsure if the call is legitimate, hang up and call Consumers Energy at 800-477-5050 and contact your local law enforcement agency.”
Bush said Consumers Energy will never threaten to shut off power immediately if payment is not made. The company’s collection process involves a series of letters that clearly state a disconnection date if payment is not made.
Consumers will also never require customers to pay their bill with pre-paid credit cards or debit cards, a tactic often used by scammers.
An employee at a Grandville auto repair shop recently reported one of these calls to the BBB Scamtracker. The employee said the caller claimed to be with Consumers Energy and claimed that Consumers employees were on the way to the address to shut off the power.
The caller claimed the only way to prevent this was to pay the outstanding balance of $1382.42 immediately. “I knew we didn’t have a balance and knew this was a scam,” the employee told the BBB. However, the threat concerned others at the business who were worried the power would be cut if payment wasn’t made. In the end, the employee refused to pay and no money was lost.
Other scams to look out for:
- GRPD warns community that calls and voicemails 'from headquarters' are scams
- How to avoid apartment and vacation rental scams
- Grabbing a gift card? It could be empty. Grinches are scamming the system
- Authorities: Be vigilant of scam letters during the holidays
- Scammers in Norton Shores are claiming to be the police and demanding money
- BBB warns of scammers impersonating popular travel site
►Make it easy to keep up to date with more stories like this. Download the 13 ON YOUR SIDE app now.