Phone scam targets Consumers Energy customers

Posted: 9:40 AM, Nov 19, 2015
Updated: 2015-11-19 09:40:24-05

It was a full house at Delhi Cafe, when the General Manager got a call.

"Telling me it was Consumers Energy that they were gonna turn off my power, and that I had to pay my bill because they did not receive my payment," said Delhi Cafe GM Elaine Chrystophilis.

The caller demanded 800 dollars immediately.

"They had me transfer to different people, lIke oh let me give you to my manager," said Chrystophilis. "I know you're upset. They were very convincing."

So she checked her book and looked at her bank account before realizing the call was a scam.

"I just told them that I didn't want to talk to them anymore, and if they were gonna cut my power, then just go ahead and cut my power," she explained. "I hung up on them."

But not all restaurants knew the call was fake.

There have been 76 calls in Ingham County alone this year, with scammers stealing $9,161.

"Call back at a known phone number and be real leery of when the payment's being demanded in alternative methods or non-traditional ways of paying," said Capt. Christopher Stolicker, Michigan State Police's Commander of the Special Investigation Division.

Consumers told me it will never ask for a pre-paid card as a form of payment.

"There are different methods, but we would make multiple point of contacts with the customer prior to shutting anyone off," said Consumers Energy Vice President Annette Gardiner.

Even then it can be hard to tell because technology is making it easier for criminals.

"Voice over, internet kind of calls and stuff," said Capt. Stolicker. "They're masking caller IDs, and they're very good. Your caller ID may show Consumers and it's not."

"Awareness is one of the big defenses against these sort of thing working," said Rob Fowler, the President and CEO of Small Business Association of Michigan.

It's up to everyone to keep their eyes open.

"It's just disappointing that people would want to go after small businesses," said Chrystophilis.