Residents urged to know the signs of fraud

Utility Scam Awareness Week runs November 17-23

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel and the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) on Monday urged residents to know the signs of fraud during Utility Scam Awareness Week, November 17-23.

“Raising awareness and educating customers about scams is one of my top priorities,” Nessel said. “Utility Scam Awareness Week is a great opportunity to help spread awareness about suspicious behaviors and the tactics scammers use to target utility customers.”

Many electric, water and natural gas customers throughout the country — including Michigan — are being targeted by impostor utility scams every day. Scammers typically use phone, in-person, and online tactics to target customers.

“It is important that customers call their utilities directly to check on the status of their accounts if they are ever unsure about the authenticity of a caller or the identity of a service worker, or if they suspect any fraudulent activity,” said Nessel.

The MPSC, which regulates energy utilities and telecommunications, receives a significant number of complaints each year from customers who’ve been the victim of utility scams.

“We ask utility customers to be mindful when they receive these calls,” said MPSC Chairman Sally Talberg. “It can be even more confusing when scammers use technology to falsify caller ID to make it appear the call is coming from a utility company. If you suspect a fraudulent call, hang up and call your utility right away.”

Utility companies never call customers and demand immediate payment to keep services from being shut off in a matter of hours. And utility companies do not use deceptive tactics to try to get inside a home. Real employees always wear company identification badges. Utility companies also will NOT:

• Require a prepaid debit card or gift card for payments.
• Collect payment at a customer’s home or business.
• Call, text or email and ask for social security, bank account or credit card information.

Utilities United Against Scams (www.UtilitiesUnited.org) – a consortium of more than 100 U.S. and Canadian electric, water and natural gas utilities, and their trade associations — sponsors this week-long awareness campaign and offers consumers a comprehensive Consumers Guide to Imposter Utility Scams.

If you’ve mistakenly provided bank account or credit card information to someone you suspect might have been an impostor, call your bank or credit card company immediately. If you have a complaint or believe you are the victim of a utility scam, report it online to the Michigan Public Service Commission or call 1-800-292-9555. You may also file a complaint with the attorney general’s Consumer Protection Team at mi.gov/agcomplaints.

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