“We are aware of over 1,000 attempts by criminals to con small business owners into making payments they believe are intended for Consumers Energy,” said Annette Gardiner, Consumers Energy’s vice president for shared services at a news conference in Lansing today (11/18).

Michigan State Police Capt Christopher Stolicker, Wednesday 11/18, at MSP headquarters in Lansing

Officials from Consumers Energy, Michigan State Police and prominent business organizations are encouraging business owners and residents alike to take steps to protect themselves from scams.

Small businesses have been scammed out $81,000 according to Consumers. The scam works this way: a store or restaurant receives a call from someone pretending to be from Consumers Energy and the demand is to pay within an hour or two using a prepaid credit or debit card. The scam can include a threat to shut off service, insistence on specific form of payment (like a pre-paid credit card, and seeking personal or account info. The caller ID may make the call look legit.

Jackson County did not have the most scam calls, but it also did not have the least.  Fifty calls in Jackson County amounted to $1,239 paid (see chart below).

If you are approached by a suspicious caller, you can check it out by calling Consumers at 800-477-5050.

WAYS TO PAY: Consumers Energy does not demand payment via a prepaid card, a preferred method of many scammers. Customers can pay bills in the following ways:

-Over a secure Internet site
-Via U.S. mail
-In person at an authorized pay agent location
-By Visa, MasterCard or eCheck using an authorized Consumers Energy EasyPay agent
-Learn more: www.ConsumersEnergy.com/waystopay