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LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan Public Service Commission is hearing from utility companies that there are increased customer complaints about phone scams in which callers threaten shutoffs if customers don't take immediate actions that include making payments by gift cards, Bitcoin or other forms of payment.
The increase in complaints also includes instances where callers manipulate caller ID to make it appear as if a utility company is making the call. This deliberate falsification is called Caller ID spoofing.
Utilities report that the scammers appear to be targeting seniors and other vulnerable residential customers along with schools.
The MPSC reminds utility customers to keep their guard up against scams. Utility companies never call customers with bullying tactics such as demanding immediate payment to keep services from being shut off in a matter of hours.
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The rise in complaints comes as utility companies, regulators and consumer advocates observe Utility Scam Awareness Week, Nov. 17-23, with an emphasis on educating consumers on how to avoid being a victim of utility scams. More information about Utility Scam Awareness Week is available at www.utilitiesunited.org.
The MPSC asks customers to be mindful to whom they provide their account numbers or personal information such as name, address, date of birth or Social Security number. If you suspect that that the call may be fraudulent, you should hang up and call your utility right away at the phone number on your most recent bill and ask to speak with a customer service representative.
Utility companies also do not:
- Endorse or require a prepaid debit card, gift card, Bitcoin or other cryptocurrency for payments; Collect payment at customers' homes or businesses; Or ask for Social Security numbers, bank account or credit card information by phone.
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In addition, utility companies do not use coercive tactics to try to get into your home. They require employees or contractors to always wear a company identification badge that the employees will be glad to show if asked.
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.
For information about the MPSC, visit www.Michigan.gov/MPSC, sign up for one of its listservs, or follow the Commission on Twitter. Additional resources for fraud prevention can be found at the website by clicking on the Consumer Information tab.
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