DTE Energy and Consumer's Energy utility fraud is on the rise in Michigan and is accomplished with Caller ID spoofing technology, called Voice Over IP (VoIP) allowing scammers to victimize energy consumers over the telephone.
The DTE Energy telephone solicitor scam continues to plague various areas across Metropolitan Detroit requiring utility consumers to be aware and protect themselves against the compulsory utility bill payment hoax.
Initial reports of DTE and Consumers Energy utility fraud scam alerts from the energy giants and Michigan police date as far back as April 2013 and as recent as July 2018. Imposter utility workers would primarily approach small businesses threatening immediate utility shut-offs and demanding immediate payments.
However, investigators are finding the most recent cases reported are due to new telephone app technology which has emboldened imposters in victimizing a growing number of Michigan residential energy customers.
In the latest version of the scam, imposters are contacting energy customers via mobile phone as telephone solicitors from the utility company demanding immediate payment began to resurface the scam since the onset of the 2019 post-Holiday season.
It appears that telephone solicitation has become the preferred method of perpetrating the fraud with new app technology that allow culprits to call customers from legitimate utility company phone numbers.
Computer Calling Technology
The reemergence of DTE Energy utility scams can be credited to software technology referred to as Voice Over IP (VoIP) which is a means of Caller ID spoofing that has taken the scammer’s arsenal of deceptive tactics to another level.
Voice Over Internet Protocol, or Voice Over IP (VoIP) is a method of computer calling via broadband internet connections or private corporate networks that allow transmitters to bypass traditional telephone switchboard routes called PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network).
There is little to no need for special equipment or services except where adapters are required as these applications convert the caller's voice into a digital signal subverting telephone networks so that the call can be made directly from a computer or other data-driven devices.
The technology is available on Skype and other commonly known software applications.
In short, don’t trust your Caller ID as the callers are able to adopt the phone numbers of legitimate companies such as DTE Energy giving them credibility in alarming their victims with threats of immediate service interruption.
In other words, the success of the scam is largely due to the caller's ability to contact customers from a recognizable corporate phone number.
DTE Energy executive offices report fraudulent utility bill collections in excess of $200,000 for the 2017 winter season.
Michigan Energy Consumer Protection Laws
As previously reported, energy consumers should be aware that utility shut-offs during the winter season are illegal in the State of Michigan.
The Michigan Legislature MCL 460.9t(7), a utility shut-off protection statute, provides that energy providers who have opted-out of the Michigan Energy Assistance Program (MEAP) funding plan are prohibited from terminating residential utility services for non-payment during the “crisis season” from November 1 – April 15 per each fiscal year.
Participating MEAP providers (including DTE Energy, Consumers Energy, and SEMCO) are prohibited from residential utility shut-offs due to non-payment from November 1 – March 31 each fiscal year.
The 2019 fiscal year runs from October 1, 2018 – September 31, 2019.
Tips for Avoiding the DTE Utility Fraud
The Community Advocate Network of Michigan has been fielding calls from residents complaining about being victimized by these scammers.
If you believe that you have victimized, I recommend that you file a police report and contact your utility provider right away.
DTE and Consumers Energy are fully aware of the problem and should be notified when your account has been compromised or if you have been forced to make fraudulent payments. You should contact your utility provider and request a credit to your account and you may report the crime to the Michigan Public Service Commission for further assistance.
Help is available if you need assistance with paying utility bills. Follow the links below and visit the Utility Assistance - Community Resources section for more information.
Michigan Energy Assistance Programs (MEAP) FY19
Michigan Energy Assistance Program (MEAP) Grantees Announced
Utility Imposters Up Their Game with Technology
DTE Energy - Tips for Avoiding Utility Fraud and Utility Imposters
Welcome to The Community Advocate Network. My name is Deborah Mitchell, I am a graduate in Social Work and Registered Social Work Technician. My human service background began in 2007 which includes medical case management and service navigation for the indigent population, outpatient mental health counseling with substance use and abuse disorders, supportive employment and job development for mental health consumers, and structured living domicile management.