CMS Energy reports widespread phone payment scam

CMS Energy reports widespread phone payment scam

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JACKSON, Mich. (AP) -- CMS Energy Corp. warned its customers Tuesday about a scam in which people pretending to represent the power company call and demand that bills be quickly paid over the phone.

The Oakland County sheriff's department reported a similar fraud scheme involving federal taxes.

The Jackson-based company's Consumers Energy unit says there have been 118 reported cases of the fraud attempt using a Green Dot prepaid card since Nov. 22. In a typical case, a person speaking either English or Spanish demands payment for a Consumers Energy bill within an hour, telling the customer to purchase a Green Dot card at drug or food stores.

"We are cautioning the public to be on guard and alert about this scam," Michael Williams, Consumers Energy's security director, said in a statement. "Our customers should know that Consumers Energy never demands payment over the phone using only a Green Dot card."

Oakland County Undersheriff Mike McCabe said someone pretending to represent the Internal Revenue Service conned a Farmington Hills resident into paying $3,854. McCabe said the victim became suspicious and balked after he got a call from someone claiming to be "Sheriff Bouchard" and threatening criminal charges unless the victim paid an additional $4,560.

"Any entity asking for payment or money in the form of a prepaid Green Dot money card is suspect," Sheriff Michael Bouchard said. "If you suspect you are being scammed, there is a very good chance you are. Trust your instincts and report suspicious behavior to your local authorities."

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