Law enforcement, utility company warn of rip-offs

Posted at 10:28 PM, Feb 26, 2015
and last updated 2015-02-26 23:15:54-05

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- Be on the lookout for criminals looking to steal your money, that is the warning from several law enforcement agencies and utility companies.

The Michigan State Police spoke with senior citizens, who are often times the most vulnerable to crooks, but no one is off the hook when it comes to being a target for con artists.

It's a busy time of year for criminals. Taxes are due, and peoples' utility bills are most likely the highest they've been all year with the cold weather, and thieves out there are looking to take full advantage.

The Grand Rapids Police Department is warning that crooks are calling west Michigan tax payers, claiming to be the IRS, threatening to pursue legal action against them unless they send them money on pre-paid cards.

GRPD reminds everyone that the IRS only uses postal mail to contact tax payers.

The IRS isn't the only one who sends letters through the mail, Consumers Energy is reminding customers about an on-going rip-off where criminals target small businesses, especially restaurants, claiming they will shut off their service within hours of contacting them. The big red flag, the con artists only accept money on a prepaid card like green dot.

"We have a detailed process. We will send several letters. We will make several phone calls before we cut power,"said Roger Morgenstern from Consumers Energy. "We will never do that. We will never call and say you've got to put something on a prepaid credit card, but these are shysters, and so they are very slick when they are talking to customers. They can very quickly make a customer think that this is really consumers energy."

The Michigan State Police spoke to senior citizens at the Holland Home Breton Terrace on Thursday night, warning them that their good intentions are a target for criminals looking to make a quick buck.

"If you suddenly have an email that pops up and it has a link that directs you somewhere else, that is a major major danger sign," said Trooper Marty Miller.

MSP warned the group about rip-offs targeting not only their good will, but also their bank accounts.

Another thing to avoid, allowing strangers into your home, adding the crooks might be targeting your valuables, with the intention to return when no one is home.

"These crooks just want to take a step inside the door to look around and say nice stuff," said Miller.

Another big red flag is urgency. MSP said that more likely than not, crooks tell their potential victims to send money right away, putting pressure on them and limiting the time they take to actually think about whether they are being deceived.