GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A sophisticated phone scam has callers masquerading as energy company employees to steal thousands of dollars.
Victims get a call from someone presenting themselves as an agent of a utility company like DTE or Consumers Energy. Caller ID shows the company’s name, but that’s the result of a hack. The callers have detailed information about accounts, including how much is owed and how much the last payment was — and the information will be correct.
“With the information that they have … they call up and you scurry to get your bill off your table, and, ‘Oh my goodness, that is my current balance. Oh my goodness, that is what I paid last month.’ So they really make it sound legitimate, which is very scary,” Kent County Undersheriff Jon Hess said.
Next, the scammers say that the only way customers can avoid getting their power shut off is to purchase a Green Dot prepaid card and then call them back.
That, both Consumers Energy and the Kent County Sheriff’s Department said, is the red flag.
“Always be on guard,” Consumers Energy spokesman Roger Morgenstern said. “If you are called, we will never demand payment on just one thing like a Green Dot card. If you think that you are being contacted by Consumers Energy and you are being told to pay and you must pay on a Green Dot card, please have your antennas up and give us a call because we will never do that.”
The sheriff’s department said two Grand Rapids-area businesses were hit recently — one paid $3,500 to the scammers.
Consumers Energy said it is tracking more than a hundred similar cases in Michigan since November. The targets in those have also included individuals.