Utility imposters are turning to bitcoin as a preferred method of payment in their attempts to scam DTE Energy customers. Bitcoin – a virtual currency – is very difficult to trace. Perpetrators typically call customers demanding an immediate payment via bitcoin or else power will be shut-off in a short period of time. In the past, scammers have also demanded payment in the form of a Green Dot debit card, Western Union wire transfer and/or cash.
Utility imposters continue to leverage the latest technology in their deception tactics. With that in mind, DTE is encouraging customers to be vigilant by looking out for people claiming to be utility workers.
Technology has enhanced the con artists’ believability because caller ID may show the call is coming from DTE Energy. In some cases, the perpetrators provide callback numbers that answer with a recorded greeting that is like the one that’s played on DTE Energy’s customer service line.
Last year, DTE customers reported being scammed out of $273,000. Nearly all were business customers. Scammers operate year-round, with no apparent pattern, although calls tend to be made from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. during weekdays.
Protect yourself and your business by following these tips:
Know the Red Flags
Customers should verify all information before making payments over the phone, and should learn to recognize the red flags:
- Someone asks for your DTE account number
DTE Energy DOES NOT ask customers to provide their account numbers. Customers will be asked to validate account information such as the billing zip code, or last four digits of their Social Security number prior to discussing account details to protect our customers’ private information. DTE Energy DOES NOT call for payment if the account is in good standing. If a customer is behind on payments, DTE will mail a warning notice, providing the steps to restore the account to good standing and continue service.
Alarm bells should ring when someone calls and says a crew is on the way to shut off service unless there’s an immediate payment. The more aggressive the caller, the more skeptical customers should be.
- Demanding a specific form of payment
DTE Energy DOES NOT demand a specific form of payment. In fact, it provides a variety of payment options, including credit cards, debit cards, bank/ACH transfers and more. If a caller insists on payment via a prepaid debit card — especially a specific brand of prepaid card — it is a scam.
On the Phone
- Do not trust your caller ID. Scammers are using caller ID spoofing to make the call appear to originate from DTE Energy. If you suspect the call may be fraudulent, hang up and call us toll-free at 800.477.4747. Ask to be connected to a customer service representative who can confirm the status of your account and make appropriate arrangements for payment, if needed. Similar scams also spoof caller ID and claim to be the IRS and other credible sources.
- Ask for identification. Pull out your most recent DTE Energy bill and ask the caller to tell you the account number and the amount due.
- If you have received a call of this nature and believe you are the victim of fraud, contact your local police immediately.
At the Door
Ask for identification. All DTE Electric and DTE Gas employees and contractors carry photo identification badges, and are required to display their badge if asked. If you are unsure about an employee’s identification, or want to verify the nature of the work to be done at your home, call us at 800.477.4747.
Do not allow people into your home who:
- Claim to offer a DTE Electric or DTE Gas refund. Our employees never deliver cash refunds or rebates to customers’ homes.
- Claim to sell DTE Electric or DTE Gas products or services. DTE employees do not engage in door-to-door sales for gas and electric services DTE Gas occasionally sells Home Protection Plan services door-to-door but only by employees who carry photo ID.
- Attempt to collect a bill payment. DTE does not collect or accept utility bill payments at customers’ homes or businesses.
DTE encourages customers to call the police if you believe the person at your door is a con artist posing as a utility worker.
On the Web
- The web is increasingly being used to commit fraud and identity theft. Scammers use e-mail, text messaging and social media sites, such as Facebook and Twitter.
- Never give out personal information, including Social Security, bank account or credit card numbers over the Internet to someone you do not know.
- If you suspect you have been fraudulently contacted, call us at 800.477.4747 to speak with a customer service representative who can confirm the status of your account and make appropriate arrangements for payment, if needed.
If you believe you are the victim of an online scam, contact your local police immediately.