JACKSON — Consumers Energy Thursday estimated that more than 2,300 of its customers have sought approximately $1 million as victims of a nationwide utility bill payment scam that surfaced in Michigan earlier this month.

However, there is no such money available from the federal government and customers may believe they have paid their bills when in fact they have not.

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The areas hardest hit by this scam include:
* Flint (including Grand Blanc, Burton and Mount Morris), 515 affected customers
* Saginaw, 433 affected customers
* Kalamazoo and Battle Creek, 206 affected customers
* Warren, Eastpointe and Clinton Township, 177 affected customers * Grand Rapids, 141 affected customers

Under the scam, a customer may be contacted in person, via a live or automated phone call, flyer, social media or text message.  The scammers claim that President Obama will pay a person’s utility bills through a new federal program.

Customers are then asked to provide their social security number, credit card, banking or other personal account information in exchange for a bank routing number that will allegedly pay their utility bills. In reality, there is no money, and customers believe they have paid their bills when in fact they have not.

Consumers Energy does not solicit this kind of information by phone or the Internet from its customers, said Doug Detterman, customer care manager for the utility.

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“In light of these disturbing victim totals, we want to strongly remind customers never to disclose personal information, including financial account numbers, social security or credit card numbers, over the phone or internet to someone you do not know,” Detterman added.

Customers who are contacted by scammers are encouraged to contact their local law enforcement agency and report the incident.

As Consumers Energy becomes aware of customers who have been victimized, a letter will be sent advising that their payment did not process. The utility is committed to working with customers who have been victimized by this scam by offering payment arrangements when necessary.

More information on this scam, including tips to avoid becoming a victim, is available via the Better Business Bureau at this link: http://www.bbb.org/us/article/president-obama-is-not-offering-to-pay-your-utility-bills-34928

Tips on preventing utility fraud may be found at this link:  www.michigan.gov/documents/mpsc/mpsc-ca_utilityservicefraud_211946_7.pdf

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Consumers Energy, the principal subsidiary of CMS Energy (NYSE: CMS), provides natural gas and electricity to 6.8 million of Michigan’s 10 million residents in all 69 Lower Peninsula counties.