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DTE offers tips to protect yourself against con artists

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Posted at 5:46 AM, Feb 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-03 05:46:18-05

TAYLOR (WXYZ) — This time the crook who posed as a DTE worker wore a tan mask over his face and drove a small silver truck, according to Taylor Police who said that con man got away with thousands of dollars in cash and jewelry that belong to a senior citizen who trusted him.

"They know who they're going after and it really does break our heart when we see some of the most vulnerable among us being targeted like this," said Chris Lamphear, DTE Energy's Corporate Communications Manager, who talked to 7 Action News Tuesday about how people can help protect themselves and their property from scam artists.

"First thing people should do is ask to see a DTE badge. Every employee who is out in the field, who is visiting with customers, will carry DTE identification on them," said Lamphear. "So any customer who is visited by someone claiming to be a DTE employee, ask to see that badge. If they can't produce it, shut the door, call DTE, call your local police department because chances are that was a scammer."

Taylor Police say the elderly woman who was targeted Friday afternoon was only able to give a vague description of the man who posed as a DTE worker Friday around 3:00 in the afternoon.

The victim said he was white and appeared to be about 40-years-old. He wore a tan face mask and drove a small silver truck.
He told her he needed to come in and check the circuit breaker and once he was downstairs with her, he told her to stay downstairs while he went back upstairs and that he would tell her when to turn the circuit breaker back on.

By the time she realized something was wrong, the man was gone with her money and jewelry.

Taylor Police say if anyone encounters the man, they should call 911 immediately. And anyone with information that could lead to a suspect should call Taylor Police (734) 287-6611.

If anyone come to your door, claiming to be with DTE, you can help protect yourself by calling DTE directly (1-800-477-4747) and asking if the person at the door is there on legitimate business.

DTE offers the following warning signs of a scam:

  • Solicits personal information for a government program that claims to reduce energy bills
  • Asks for unusual forms of payment such as Bitcoin or gift cards
  • Visits your home to collect a bill or threaten shutoff
  • Shows up unannounced at a customer’s home to inspect or repair equipment, investigate a leak or do a free audit for energy efficiency
  • Requests personal or financial information, such as a Social Security number, utility account number or payment information
  • Claims a customer is entitled to a refund or rebate asking for bank account or credit card information to make the alleged refund
  • Uses aggressive tactics to get into a customer’s home

Here is more information from DTE to help protect you and your property:

In recent incidents, DTE has received reports of scammers calling customers demanding an immediate payment or else power will be shut off. In the past, scammers have also demanded payment via Green Dot debit card, Western Union wire transfer, bitcoin or cash.

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.

  • Bullying

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 DTE Customer Service at 800.477.4747. 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.
  • DTE encourages customers to call the police if you believe the person at your door is a con artist posing as a utility worker.
  • 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.
    • Attempt to collect a bill payment. DTE DOES NOT collect or accept utility bill payments at customers' homes or businesses.

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.

For customers in situations where their identity may be compromised, we advise all customers to call their local police, take advantage of free credit reporting, watch for new accounts opened in their name and report any unusual activity to us immediately.