Consumers Energy Warns About Prepaid Credit Card Phone Scam
Consumers Energy is warning people about a scam that tries to get people to pay for their utility bills over the phone using a prepaid credit card. Consumers Energy has received almost 1,000 complaints regarding this scam with a total of 46 people making "payments" to the tune of $58,000.
Callers threaten to shut off service if immediate payment for residential or commercial services is not made on accounts using a Green Dot or other prepaid credit card.
Consumers Energy wants people to know that they never demand payment using only pre-paid credit cards and urge customers to never be coerced into paying an energy bill over the phone. They also warn customers not to give out personal information to people they don't know.
If you think you have been a victim of this scam, contact your local law enforcement.
For more information on elder abuse, including financial abuse, and how to prevent it, visit www.protectkentseniors.org
New Senior Scam
A new senior scam involves a phone call from someone claiming to be from the Kent County Probate Court claiming they are going to be in the area and want to stop by to talk about preparing a Will. The Kent County Probate Court is warning residents that they never send people out to do Wills or to conduct any type of investigation without a court order.
If you receive a call from someone claiming to be from the Kent County Probate Court with the scam above, please hang up immediately and contact your local law enforcement to report the incident.
As a reminder, never give out any personal information such a social security numbers, Medicare/Medicaid details, or financial accounts over the phone to someone unless you initiated the phone call.
For more on the latest senior scams and to learn more about how to protect yourself from elder abuse, visit the Kent County Elder Abuse Coalition. And remember elder abuse can be financial, physical, sexual, or psychological.
The Kent County Elder Abuse Coalition is warning seniors and caregivers about several scams this holiday season. More details on each scam below and, as always, contact your local law enforcement right away if you feel you have been the victim of these, or any, scams or fraudulent activity.
Door to Door Gift Basket Scam
Be careful when opening the door for those holiday packages. Some people are going door-to-door with gift baskets or calling ahead of time to warn of a special holiday delivery. The catch, they telling people they need to scan their credit card and/or driver’s license for either a “verification fee” or to prove they are over 21 (if there is alcohol in the basket).They pull out a hand held scanner and now they have all the information they need to make unauthorized charges or commit identity theft.
Never, of course, give your credit card or debit card information to someone at the door.
In addition to having packages stolen off your doorstep, people should also watch for fake delivery status emails that can also cause problems.
The Federal Trade Commission has warned about phone "delivery failure notification" emails that can make the rounds during the holiday season. The email might look like it’s from the U.S. Postal Service and say you missed a delivery. But the trouble is the message will include more links to click for details. And here's where you'd end up with a virus or malware on your computer if you'd click on a link or download the attachment.
Another version of the email includes package “tracking information.” On their website, Fed Ex warns that such fraudulent emails can contain the subject lines “Shipping Conformation,” “Verify Info,” “Some important information is missing” and “Please fulfill the documents attached to verify your identity.”
Again, that phony email may have an attached file that may contain a virus or other malware.
FexEx warns that if you receive a message matching these descriptions, do not open the email or click on the attachment. Delete the email immediately or forward it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Due to all of the Cyber Monday shopping and packages being delivered for Christmas, these emails may seem legitimate, but Fed Ex recommends people not click any links and instead copy the tracking number and go directly to the Fed Ex website and paste it in their “track package” section.
Consumers Energy Scam
Consumers Energy is warning customers to be cautious. They say this year alone, more than 1,000 energy scam attempts have led to $81,000 in losses. They say typically callers will contact a small business pretending 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).
Seven Common Items in Consumers Energy Scams:
- A phone call demanding payment within a short time frame.
- Threaten service will be shut off if payment is not received.
- Insist on a specific form of payment (i.e.a pre-paid credit card).
- May seek personal or account information.
- May have an account number or what sounds like the proper bill amount.
- May "spoof" your phone, making it appear as if the call comes from Consumers Energy.
- May provide an 800 or 888 number to call that is not ours.
What You Should Know :
- Do not pay over the phone using a pre-paid credit card.
- Do not give personal information or money over the phone to anyone you do not know.
- If you receive a call and believe it may be a scam, call us immediately at 800-477-5050.
Did You Know?
- Consumers Energy employees and authorized contractors wear ID badges.
- We offer many ways to pay – by mail, in person or over a secure Internet site. Learn more at ConsumersEnergy.com/waystopay.
- We won't request personal information or insist on payment in less than 24 hours.
- We never demand payment using only a pre-paid credit card.
Michigan counties in our region with the most reports this year of phone scammers pretending to be from Consumers Energy:
- Kent: 124 calls, $7,061 paid
- Allegan: 33 calls, $1,750 paid
Source: Consumers Energy One Energy Plaza Jackson, MI 49201
For more information on senior scams and elder abuse, visit the Kent County Elder Abuse Coalition at www.protectkentseniors.org
Senior Scam Using AAAWM Name for PERS Service
We have recently been informed that a company is calling older adults and claiming that Area Agency on Aging is paying in full for Personal Emergency Response devices (commonly called “call-buttons”). The automated call encourages people to “press 1 to verify their address.”
AAAWM encourages anyone who receives the call to hang up and to NOT give the caller any information.
We have contacted all of the companies we currently use to provide Personal Emergency Response Services (PERS) and they have stated they are NOT behind these calls.
If you, or someone you know is in need of a PERS, please contact us and we can provide you with the name of the agencies we have funding relationship with.
Again, we encourage people to NOT provide any personal information and to hang up the phone.
New Phone Scam
A phone scam that is using the Grand Rapids City Police name has been reported in the East Precinct of Grand Rapids. The scam phone call begins with a man identifying himself as a sheriff deputy or police officer. He informs the potential victim that there is a warrant for his / her arrest for failure to show for jury duty. He says the fines can be reduced if paid immediately. He instructs the potential victim to obtain a "Green Dot" credit card right away then go to the Sheriff's office to pay the fine. He will make every attempt to obtain personal credit information from the person. If the scammer is successful in obtaining this personal information, he will likely steal the identity and commit financial fraud.
The Kent County Sheriff's Office wants the public to know that they never work this way. They would never ask anyone to obtain a "Green Dot" card to pay fines. They would never suggest that fines could be reduced if the person "pays immediately".
They want the public to know that these scam artists are very convincing and often times already have some personal information about the potential victim. They encourage us all to not be fooled and to hang up immediately. They also encourage these incidents to be reported right away to your local law enforcement agency.
For more information on elder abuse prevention and education, visit www.protectkentseniors.org
*article provided by the Kent County Elder Abuse Coalition
Elder Abuse Coalition Warns of New Scam
Phony DTE workers are going door to door promising energy assistance funding if the homeowner would just provide some personal information including social security numbers. DTE is not sending employees into the community offering such assistance. To read more, please refer to the Kent County Elder Abuse Coalition website at - http://www.protectkentseniors.org/recent-scams#s10
Scam Alert: Home Improvement Scams
Older adults, especially those in Kent County, are being advised to be careful when working with contractors for home improvements. The Grand Rapids Police Department has received a number of phone calls concernering contractors going door to door and convincing homeowners that they need work done that may not be necessary. The Kent County Elder Abuse Coalition urges seniors to pay attention to the following before having any home improvement work done
- Always get references from a contractor before you agree to a project
- Don’t agree to work “on the spot”, ask for an estimate and take time to look it over before making any decision.
- Never put down more than 50%
- Be skeptical of those who go door to door to solicit home improvement business, while they may be a legitimate company, it’s always a much safer when you initiate the call yourself
- Get another estimate, most companies/contractors will offer a free estimate and have them go over the estimate with you if you have any questions.
If feel you have been a victim of a scam artist, contact your local police immediately.
Snowflakes, Seniors and Scams
Around the winter months, like all of us, seniors may be more susceptible to scams that prey on persons needing to stay warm or to protect their health during frigid weather. However, during this time older adults can increase their knowledge about how to avoid being taken advantage of and ensure a safe and warm winter season.
Tips for seniors to avoid scams:
- Always ask for information in writing and read documents carefully before signing. When asked to sign a contract, consider taking the document home and read it without stress. If comfortable with the terms and conditions, return the next day with it signed.
- If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. During the winter months many places offer great bargains on items to keep warm and healthy. Unless it is a reputable, familiar business, stay away from deals that are “too good to pass up” and always read the fine print.
- Protect yourself and your medical and financial information. Do not disclose this information over the phone. This has long been a popular tool used by con artists to gain access to personal information. Financial and medical institutions do not ask for this information over the phone.
- Do your research before working with a new organization or individual. Many community resources exist to help seniors advocate for themselves. Contact your local Agency on Aging, the Better Business Bureau, legal assistance programs or family and friends you trust for more information on an organization. If something makes you uncomfortable, don’t do it.
For other ways to combat fraud and abuse, visit the Senior Advocacy in Action Alert and contact your state Representative about pending legislation.
Beware of Census Scams
The U.S. Census Bureau uses a workforce of trained federal employees to conduct the U.S. Census survey; however, the Census Bureau cannot stop or warn against all bogus or false collections of data. Here are some tips issued by the state of Michiganís Intelligence Operations Center to help protect your personal information.
- Do not give out your full social security number, bank account number, credit card number, usernames or passwords.
- Do not respond to the U.S. Census via the internet.
- The U.S. Census will not send you an e-mail regarding participating in the Census.
- The U.S. Census will not ask for donations.
- The U.S. Census will not send requests on behalf of a political party.
- If a U.S. Census worker comes to your home, ask to see a valid ID badge.
If you receive a U.S. Census e-mail and suspect it may be bogus, do not reply or click on any link or open attachments. Forward the e-mail to ITSO.Fraud.Reporting@census.gov then delete the e-mail.
Please feel free to share this information with family and friends to assist them with determining the validity of Census requests.
Information from the Michigan Office of Services to the Aging
For more information on the U.S. Census in Michigan, visit, www.michigan.gov/census2010