From WOOD TV:
A scammer calling people in West Michigan is pretending to be from Consumer’s Energy, saying that a bill is past due and needs to be paid immediately with a Green Dot money card.
Deb Haverhals works in the accounts receivable department at Modern Hardware on Kalamazoo Avenue SE in Grand Rapids. She received a call at the store from someone who said his name was Kevin Johnson and then Kevin Brown. He said the store’s bill was overdue.
“This gentleman said that he was from Consumers Energy and that we had a past-due amount, and that they were going to shut off our electric and we could prevent that if I would take care of this right away; today,” Haverhals said. “They want you to get into this panic mode.”
She said she did have a moment of panic — wondering if the check got lost in the mail — but knew to ask some questions.
Haverhals said she asked how much money was due. The amount the man on the phone listed was too high. She asked for contact information and a name so she could call back after checking with Consumers. She said there were also other warning signs.
“When somebody’s talking to you and you can hear people in the background saying the same stuff to somebody else, that’s not typical,” said Haverhals.
Luckily, Hvverhals was able to reach Consumers before the man called back.
“When I hung up with him, I called Consumers Energy to check to see if they had received my last payment and asked them if there was a like scam going around and they did say there was a scam,” said Haverhals.
24 Hour News 8 turned the tables on the scammer by calling him. He asked what state we were calling from, and said he was in Washington D.C. and worked for Consumers Electric.
He never denied anything but when 24 Hour News 8 said we were recording the conversation for a story, he quickly hung up.
“It may well be the people most vulnerable to these kind of scams are the people who may not pay every month on time, they may have to have a pay plan, they may get behind a month or two here and there, but Consumers Energy tells us that they would never make a call like this to begin with,” said Phil Catlett, the CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Western Michigan. “They’re always playing on your emotions and getting you to react before you think about it.”
Catlett said it’s unlikely that people are specifically targeted in these scams — more likely, the scammers just call a bunch of numbers and hope for a bite.
24 Hour News 8 was told Consumers doesn’t accept Green Dot money cards, and have this specific set of steps before a shutoff.
-Bill is sent to consumer.
-If payment not received, second bill is sent to consumer.
-If payment is not received, shut-off notice sent to consumer outlining amount due and shut-off date.
-If payment is not received, phone call made to consumer.
-If payment is not received, service is disconnected.
The BBB recommends people who get these calls contact the Federal Communication’s Commission and the BBB.