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.
AAAWM Programs Receive National Awards
AAAWM has been awarded Aging Achievement Awards from N4A (Nationation Association of Area Agencies on Aging) for both the Kent County Elder Abuse Coalition and Senior Dental Day! Thank you to all of those who have worked with both of these great programs and a special “thank you” to our very own Nancy Kropiewnicki who helped make these programs so helpful to our community.
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
Emergency Housing and Counseling
Emergency shelter and counseling services are now available for Kent County residents over the age of 60 who are victims of vulnerable adult abuse. Senior Neighbors, Inc. will coordinate the services and an Adult Foster Care home located in Grand Rapids will provide up to one month of no cost room and board (clients must be female and able to walk up stairs). In addition, counseling services are available for any senior victim of abuse, male or female. These clients do not have to take advantage of the emergency housing.
This pilot program has been awaarded grant funding and will be available through September 30, 2015.
For a referral, please contact your local law enforcement or Adult Protective Services at 1-855-444-3911.
Grant Awarded to Address Elder Abuse
The Office of Services to the Aging has awarded Senior Neighbors a grant in the amount of $24,809 to combat elder abuse. Area Agency on Aging of Western Michigan will be a co-collaborator on the six month pilot project will work to provide emergency transitional housing and counseling to seniors who are victims of elder abuse.
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
Protecting Yourself and Your Loved Ones
On June 10, 2014, learn what you can do to protect yourself from elder abuse. Experts in the areas of elder abuse, caregiver stress, Medicare fraud and abuse, recent scams in West Michigan and other finacial ploys will tell you what you can do to help protect yourself and your loved ones.
The training will be held at the Forest Hills Fine Arts Center (600 Forest Hill Ave, Grand Rapids, MI 49546) from 11:30-3:00 p.m.
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.