GRAND RAPIDS – Michigan consumers are losing hundreds of dollars through a popular utility scam that has made its way to our side of the state, according to The Better Business Bureau in Western Michigan’s Scam Tracker.

A number of utility companies have been impersonated offering discounts on services in the past. Now, scammers are posing as Spectrum Internet, leaving voicemails offering a discount on future internet services. The catch is the customer must pay for the next few months of service up front. The scammer says the payment can only be made through a gift card, claiming it is part of a partnership.

Last month, a Mount Pleasant woman received a voicemail from someone claiming to be Spectrum Internet, with an offer of 50% off her service. She called the number left in the message, and the operator said she could have the discount for three years with no contracts but had to pay for 15 months in advance.

The operator also claimed to have added a $50 credit to her account. She was instructed to buy gift cards totaling $420 to make the purchase, which she did. When she did not receive an email confirmation of her payment, she contacted law enforcement who confirmed it was a scam. She was not able to get her money back as she paid with a gift card.

Spectrum is aware of the scam and has guidelines on their website on how to identify this scam. The company says they will never ask you to pay your bill with a gift card, wire transfer, or through payment apps. They will also never offer a discounted rate for a fee. The company says on their site that scammers will ask for account information, then call Spectrum themselves posing as you to gain access to your account balance and retrieve billing information.

How to avoid utility impersonation scams:

Never make payments with prepaid debit cards or gift cards. Scammers prefer these payment methods because there is nothing you can do to get your money back. Remember, legitimate companies almost always accept checks and credit cards as the primary means of payment.
Never share personally identifiable information with someone who has contacted you unsolicited, whether it’s over the phone, by email, on social media, or even at your front door. This includes banking and credit card information, your birthdate, Social Security or account numbers.

Avoid clicking on links or opening attachments in unsolicited emails. Links, if clicked, will download malware onto your computer, smartphone, tablet, or whatever electronic device you’re using at the time allowing cyber thieves to steal your identity. Be cautious even with an email that looks familiar; it could be fake. Take a look at the BBB tip for how to spot a scam email.

When in doubt, verify special deals with your utility company. If you are unsure about a promotional offer you’ve been presented with, get the customer service number from the company’s official website or your latest bill. Call the company directly to make sure the offer is real. If a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is.

More Information

Report utility scams to BBB through our Scam Tracker.

Read more ways to protect yourself from imposter scams.