DTE Energy Warning Customers of Con Artists Posing as Utility Workers

April 26, 2006
Energy provider says elderly customers especially preyed upon by con artists

Con artists are using a disguise as energy utility workers to gain access into homes, says DTE Energy, along with its subsidiary Detroit Edison and MichCon.

The utility company said that the impostors are using a variety of claims. In a December 2005 interview with SecurityInfoWatch.com, John Clendenen, a corporate security investigator for Georgia Power, said he has seen cases in the Atlanta area where the con artists will work in pairs, with one distracting the homeowner, claiming there may be some problem with the power cables outside the home, while the other member of the pair searches through the house for valuables.

According to a statement from DTE Energy, they have also seen the impostors claim that they are there to shut off the homeowner's power because of an outstanding bill, unless the bill is paid on the spot.

Both utilities indicated that their genuine employees carry a credential identifying them as an actual employee, something the con artists have not done.

Utilities plagued by these problems are recommended to take the following security precautions to educate and protect their customers:

1) Implement a field employee ID badge program that clearly indicates that the employee is genuine.

2) Contact local media about the problem to help spread the word on the con artists.

3) Advise local police of the incidents, and consider setting up a database that indicates where the crimes have occurred.

4) Set up a toll free number where customers can verify the legitimacy of a worker's activities in their neighborhood.

According to DTE Energy, the con artists stand to earn real punishment for these attempts, as it is a felony to impersonate public utility workers, even if a subsequent crime is not committed.