This week’s look at business news pertinent to Charlevoix County and beyond includes a utility scam targeting businesses, tax filing tips, two networking events, chamber news, and more!
The Better Business Bureau Serving Western Michigan and Consumers Energy are warning businesses to be cautious of a growing utility scam.
In the scam, a person calls a business claiming to be from Consumers Energy.
This caller says the business has an overdue bill and the utilities will be shut off if payment isn’t made immediately.
Often the caller asks for payment via wire transfer or prepaid card. Consumers Energy has seen an uptick in scam calls during the last two months, with customers paying more money to scammers in 2019 – over $52,000 – than they did in 2018.
Through mid-December, statistics show most of the scammed customers, 12, are in Kent County but followed closely by Allegan County (seven) and Kalamazoo County (five).
Consumers Energy has received information on 76 incidents where scammers were paid by customers in 2019.
The Better Business Bureau has also received a number of reports regarding this scam.
“Unfortunately, these scammers are very convincing and can quickly coerce customers into paying money,” said Christopher Bush, Consumers Energy’s director of corporate security.
“If you receive a scam call or are unsure if the call is legitimate, hang up and call Consumers Energy at 800-477-5050 and contact your local law enforcement agency.”
Bush said Consumers Energy will never threaten to shut off power immediately if payment is not made.
The company’s collection process involves a series of letters which clearly state a disconnection date if payment is not made.
The company will also not require payment in pre-paid credit cards or debit cards, a tactic often used by scammers.
“It is important for businesses to know what to watch for, and how to avoid falling victim to scams such as this,” says Phil Catlett, President of the Better Business Bureau Serving Western Michigan.
“Scams like this not only cost businesses money, but they erode trust. This makes it harder to build the ethical marketplace we all desire.”
An employee at a Grandville auto repair shop recently reported one of these calls to the BBB Scamtracker.
Wendy says the caller claimed to be with Consumers Energy and claimed that employees were on the way to the address to shut off the power.
The caller claimed only way to prevent this was to pay the outstanding balance of $1382.42 immediately.
“I knew we didn’t have a balance and knew this was a scam,” Wendy tells the BBB.
However, the threat concerned others at the business who were worried the power would be cut if payment wasn’t made.
In the end Wendy refused to pay and no money was lost.
The public is encouraged to learn more by visiting ConsumersEnergy.com/scams and at bbb.org.
The Boyne Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors has elected officers for 2020.
Mike Doumanian of Boyne Mountain will be president, Sarah Schraw of Schraw & Associates will be Vice President, Elizabeth Looze of Challenge Mountain will serve as Treasurer and Trent Stark of Korthase Flinn will be Secretary.
The new officers and entire board will be formally introduced and installed at the Chamber Annual Awards Gala on Jan. 16.
Joining the board for the new year will be Lacey Matthews, communications & marketing manager of Great Lakes Energy; Patrick Patoka, Avalanche Bay Waterpark manager for Boyne Mountain Resort; and Matt Rader of Pat O’Brien Real Estate and Bella Vita restaurant.
Effective January 1, 2020, Michigan’s minimum hourly wage will increase to $9.65 an hour. Annual increases will continue until the minimum wage hits $12.05 per hour in 2030.
The law also allows an employer to pay 85 percent of the minimum hourly wage rate to employees aged 16 and 17, which is $8.20 per hour.
Tipped employees may be paid $3.67 per hour; the tips received plus the wages paid must equal or exceed the minimum hourly wage of $9.65 and, if not, the employer must pay the shortfall.
Off the Clock
The Boyne Area Chamber has announced the 2020 schedule for Off The Clock—formerly Business After Hours.
This is the chamber’s monthly business networking event, held at member businesses.
The first one of the year, as always, is the Annual Awards Gala at Boyne Mountain Resort on Thursday Jan. 16.
Except for the Awards Gala and the Regional Business After hours, there is no charge for admission or refreshments.
Chamber members and the general public are welcome to attend.
Here is the schedule for 2020:
• Feb. 20 – Boyne Valley Vineyards, 5325 US-131 North, Boyne Falls
• March 19 – Lynda’s Real Estate, 27 South Lake St.
• April 16 – Catt Development, Edward Jones, and Boyne City Massage & Wellness, One Water Street.
• May 21 – Bella Vita, 2911 Boyne City-Charlevoix Road
• June 18 – Parkview Dental, 216 North Lake St.
• Sept. 17 – Charlevoix Area Humane Society, 614 Beardsley St., & Stiggs Brewery, 112 South Park St.
• October 15 – Good Neighbors Food Pantry, 624 State St.
• Nov. 19 – Water Street Café, 113 Water St.
With the state income tax filing season beginning in late January 2020, the Michigan Department of Treasury is asking taxpayers to take a couple of actions today to ensure returns are processed promptly.
Taxpayers are encouraged to begin gathering tax-related documents and updating their home addresses with current and previous employers so W-2s and other financial documents can be mailed to the correct address.
Incorrect addresses typically lead to information being mailed to the wrong location and could cause delays when filing tax returns.
Other notable items for Michigan’s 2020 filing season (2019 tax year):
• Beginning in January 2020, forms and instructions may be viewed and downloaded from www.michigan.gov/taxes.
• Commonly used forms will continue to be available at Treasury offices, most public libraries, northern Michigan post offices and Michigan Department of Health and Human Services county offices.
• When tax season begins in late January, taxpayers can e-file their state tax returns instead of mailing a paper return. To learn more, go to www.mifastfile.org.
• Taxpayers may elect to use direct debit when e-filing their 2019 tax returns. A direct debit is a tax payment the state Treasury Department electronically withdraws from the taxpayer’s bank account using the bank information provided on the electronically filed return.
• State income tax filers have the option of making payments electronically using the Michigan Department of Treasury’s e-Payments system. Payments can be made by using, electronic payment (eCheck), credit card or debit card.
• The ability to claim a refund for the 2015 tax year expires on April 15, 2020.
• Taxpayers who have been recent victims of identity theft are asked to report their circumstances to the state Treasury Department. Reporting identity theft helps thwart cybercriminals who attempt to file and steal a state tax refunds. To learn more about tax-related identity theft, go to www.michigan.gov/identitytheft.
More info at:
Boyne Forward is new business network and member of the Boyne Area Chamber of Commerce.
Our group is working to provide slightly different resources for the business community.
The Boyne Area Chamber of Commerce has been supportive in the initial stages in forming Boyne Forward and will continue to assist, therefore Boyne Forward intends to encourage all participants to consider becoming members of the chamber for further resources and encouragement.
Boyne Forward business-coffee groups of 8 to 12 people will launch in January bimonthly Wednesday mornings at 8:30 a.m. at the Lake Charlevoix Coffee Company.
There will also be quarterly social events starting with a Boyne Forward happy hour from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Friday Feb. 7 at Stiggs Brewery and Kitchen.
If you would like to be notified of future events, email Jamie Woodall at:
Huge Career Event
Employers, schools, and volunteers from throughout Northwest Lower Michigan can now sign up for the region’s largest career exploration event for students.
MiCareerQuest™ Northwest will be held May 13 at the Grand Traverse County Civic Center in Traverse City.
MiCareerQuest™ Northwest is a hands-on, career and college readiness event for 9th-grade students.
Local employers from Agriculture, Construction, Healthcare, Hospitality, IT, Manufacturing, and more will come together to create a unique career exploration experience.
2000 students will find out what it’s really like to be a nurse, machinist, computer programmer, chef, veterinarian, and more, directly from the people who do these jobs every day.
At MiCareerQuest™ Northwest, students will be able to:
• Talk one-on-one with experts from the region’s high-demand industries
• Touch, feel and work with tools and technology of the trades
• Walk away with in-depth and practical knowledge of today’s workplaces
Employers, schools, and volunteers can register for MiCareerQuest™ Northwest at nwm.org/micqnw.
For more information, please contact Susan Ward at firstname.lastname@example.org or Shelly VanderMeulen at email@example.com.