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Madison Heights

March 26, 2014

Third local business hit by con artist claiming to be from DTE

Victims tricked into thinking they owe money to energy company

By Andy Kozlowski
C & G Staff Writer

MADISON HEIGHTS — A Madison Heights business ponied up $495 to a man who called on the phone claiming to be a representative of DTE Energy — and the business wasn’t the first one to fall for the trick.

The owner of King of Kabob, in the 27000 block of John R, received a call March 14 from an individual who called himself “Joe,” calling from the number (313) 703-7316. Joe said he was from DTE Energy and that King of Kabob owed DTE $495, and if the business did not pay, the power would be turned off. The victim did not understand, so he had his friend speak to the man on the phone.

The friend suspected that it was a scam and tried to warn the victim, but the victim was convinced otherwise. Police said that the victim’s judgment might have been influenced out of concern for the $7,000 worth of meat he needed to keep fresh in the cooler.

The victim tried to pay the bill with a credit card, but Joe said that credit cards are not accepted; instead, the victim would have to use a Green Dot card, which is a prepaid debit card.

The victim’s friend went to the CVS at 11 Mile and John R and purchased the card, as requested, calling the victim to give him the number from the back of the card.

The victim then gave the number to Joe, and Joe told him to call back in a few minutes for the receipt number. The victim did as he was told, but Joe did not answer.

That’s when the victim called DTE and learned that no money was owed and that he had been scammed. When police called Joe’s number, they heard a message calling it “Joe’s Disconnective Service.”

Just the week before, Augie’s Bar and Grill had been hit by the same scam. And back in January or December, police say another business fell for the trick.

Madison Heights Police Lt. Robert Anderson said this is an active investigation, but in the meantime, people should exercise caution with anyone asking for money.

“No utility company is going to make you go and purchase a Green Dot card to pay a bill,” Anderson said. “They would never require immediate payment. You would’ve received a shutoff notice long before receiving any phone calls. And you should always check with the utility company to make sure the claim is legitimate before you call the person back.

“We’ve seen this type of scam before with lottery sweepstakes, which was the major one before this, telling people they won a prize and they need to pay some taxes and clearance in order to receive the prize. And there, too, they needed to go and purchase a Green Dot card,” Anderson said. “This DTE fraud is just the latest twist on the Green Dot card as a mechanism for a scam.”

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Andy Kozlowski at akozlowski@candgnews.com or at (586)279-1104.