Photo by Brendan Wood, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0.
Fake utility scam calls have been on the rise in recent weeks based on reports made to the Michigan Public Service Commission’s (MPSC) Customer Assistance Division. As a result, the MPSC is warning customers to be on alert for calls threatening to cut off service and demanding immediate payment.
The scam calls have a few things in common, so any of these signs should put up a red flag:
- The caller threatens that service will be shut off in a matter of hours unless immediate payment is received. A real utility cannot shut off service on such short notice.
- The caller asks for Social Security numbers, bank account or credit card information by phone.
- The caller offers to accept prepaid debit cards, gift cards, Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies for payment.
For any call that sets off these or other alarm bells, the MPSC advises customers to hang up and call their utility right away using the phone number on their most recent bill. The phone number used by the potential scammer shown on caller ID may resemble the utility’s number if it is a “spoofed” phone number.
Any customer who has provided sensitive information, like a bank account number, to a potential scammer should call their bank and local policy department, and may also file a complaint with the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division. Utility customers who have mistakenly provided bank account information to someone they suspect might have been an impostor should call their bank and local police department. They also may ﬁle a complaint with the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division at www.michigan.gov/ag and the Federal Trade Commission at 877-382-4357.