Electric Bill Scams: How to Detect & Avoid Them?
Many scammers are aware that many energy suppliers have recently increased their energy prices. For this reason, they often call or visit your home, offering a much lower energy rate, usually lower than the one your energy provider can offer you. These are known as energy scams, and your energy provider is almost never behind these people. If you want to learn how to protect yourself from energy scammers who may try to take your money, threaten to shut off your electric and natural gas supply, and protect your personal information, read on.
Major Energy Scam Explained
Energy scams are not a new thing. Scammers have been around for decades, stealing your personal information and asking for high payments to deliver you a service that your utility company and energy provider already deliver at pre-arranged prices. Energy scammers work in several ways, targeting you and your family members in an attempt to make you pay for made-up services.
Two types of Energy Scams and how to Identify them
There are two basic types of energy scams: scams over the phone and door-to-door scams. It is not easy to recognize and protect yourself against these types of scams. However, with a sharp eye and a few well-put questions, you can avoid scams and protect your personal information. Here is some information on the two types of energy scams and how to avoid them:
Scams over the Phone
In most cases, scammers will call you directly. They present themselves as utility companies or energy provider representatives and demand that you pay a certain amount of money, or your electric service will be disconnected. The caller ID may state that they are calling from the utility company or any of a number of energy suppliers. However, the caller ID will usually contain dots or other symbols that your energy provider does not have in their name.
The information they may present you with can be your account number, your first and last name, and they could even ask for sensitive information, such as your social security or bank account number. They usually request same-day payments and threaten to shut off your service. These are the give-away signs of scammers. Your energy provider will never demand a same-day utility bill payment, especially not in the form of a debit card, a gift card, or cash.
Door-to-door scams are an important form of scamming. Less common than phone scams, these people may present themselves as representatives of your energy provider. Red flags that you should pay attention to include, but are not limited to, having information that is readily available online, having no account number, and no verifiable information on them.
If they suggest you sign a contract for lower energy rates but have no printed materials, they could also be scammers. A rule of thumb is to contact customer support of the company they say they work for as soon as they show up and check whether these people really work for the utility or energy company they say they work for.
Common Victims of Major Energy Scams
It is usually understood that the common victims of scam operations are the elderly. However, anybody not careful enough with their information and contact details can fall victim to a scammer. More than 70% of scammer victims hold a University degree or are younger than 45. Always be careful with your account details and be aware of the ways your electric or natural gas utility can contact you.
Steps to take when you’ve been targeted by Energy Scammers
If you suspect that you’ve been targeted by conmen, you probably have been. Always stay alert for any potential warning signs and never fall for emergency bill payments, even if the company seems legit. Your energy company cannot disconnect your power service or your natural gas service without informing you first. Providers will never pressure you to make any payments, especially not in cash, as this could make you dissatisfied, and dissatisfied customers are not likely to keep their accounts with the same utility company.
The first thing to do is verify the information your scammer has presented you with online or over the phone. Any details, such as the name, the paperwork offered to you, as well as any personal information they may have provided you with, can help. Check and verify before signing anything.
Always ask your provider’s representatives for a registration number, employee number, a badge, or a photo ID for identification purposes. If they do not provide this information, consider this a warning sign. Power providers always equip their workers with legitimate IDs that are easy to check.
Familiarize yourself with your contract details and energy rates offered in your area. If a sales representative contacts you and offers, for example, green electricity rates that sound too good to be true, they probably are. Know your contract, your rates, and what a realistic low energy rate is. Having this knowledge makes you a customer that cannot be messed with.
Tips to Avoid Falling Prey to Energy Scam
If you are concerned that somebody is asking for your prepaid debit or credit card details to make a payment, you are right to feel concerned. Your electric utility will only contact you in regular ways (email, their app, or post) and will almost never send their employees to their customers’ homes to present a new energy deal. After all, this is what their webpage is for. To protect yourself from a potential scammer, pay attention to the following:
Protect your Information
Your private information is your private thing. Your official energy and/or natural gas utility may ask for some of this information, but only in their offices and never on the street or in a local bar. If this is the case with you, protect yourself from a potential scam by protecting your sensitive information. Nobody needs to know your prepaid debit, credit card, or social security details.
Always Check you Account Status
If your energy provider offers an app – use it. If anybody calls you and demands a payment, check your app or your online account on the energy supplier website immediately. If the information does not match the story your scammer has told you, contact suppliers, and inform them that somebody is pretending to be a representative of the company. Remember that your power and gas service cannot be disconnected on the same day, even if you owe money or have a tardy payment to make.
Verify their Information
In case you get a phone call or a visit from representatives of any company, please verify that they are indeed legitimate sales representatives. Your electricity supplier representatives will always have paperwork and clothes, uniforms, or vehicles with the company logo. Your utility providers will almost never send people in a casual outfit to do company business.
Familiarize yourself with your Energy Contract
The first step in preventing scams and protecting your private information, such as a bank account and social security number, is knowing the details of your contract. Never fall for prices that seem too good to be true. New customer discounts are offered by companies either on their website or in their offices, almost never outside. Stay informed and inform others on what scam warning signs are.
How do Energy Scams Work?
Energy scams work by finding your information online, by going through your garbage for a bill you’ve thrown out, or even by buying this information from employees working in companies that may have access to this information. Needless to say, this is illegal. The scammers may proceed to contact you over the phone and ask for immediate payment. Know that no company can ask for immediate payment and that your services, such as electric and gas supply, are protected by the law and cannot be shut off in a single day.
What are the Top 10 Scams?
There are many scams out there that unsuspecting customers may fall prey to. Learn about the most common scams to protect yourself and your families from identity theft and to protect your bank balance. Knowing what scams look like can help you protect yourself. Here are the top 10 scams in the US:
1. Romance Scams,
2. Business Impostors (including electricity scams),
3. Investment scams,
4. Online shopping scams (usually asking for more money upon delivery),
5. Timeshare sales,
6. Timeshare resales,
7. Persons posing as distant family members asking for money,
8. Tech support inspecting your computers, company equipment, etc.,
9. Government impostors, and
10. Prizes, sweepstakes, and lotteries (usually online).
Can I Recover Money from a Scammer?
Recovering money from a scammer can be a lengthy process with no results promised. Legitimate payment methods, such as wire transfer, leave a trace, but cash does not. Always keep your receipts and stay in touch with local authorities. In case your scammer is caught, you may be able to recover some or all your money, but only if you can prove the transfer took place.
What is the Catch with No Cost Solar?
There are really practices that allow you to get solar panels installed for free. Solar City, for example, uses these practices and allows you to use a part of the energy your panels produce for free. However, some companies may trick you into thinking you got free solar panels when they actually try to make you sign an expensive PPA contract.
Even if you plan to switch your power company or believe that your energy bill is too high, always check with your energy company and beware of any offers that sound too good to be true. As the number of scammers rises, so does the number of customer frauds they can pull successfully. Follow our tips to stay safe and protect your sensitive information.
Knowing what a scam looks and sounds like what warning signs your conmen can give off is crucial in being able to protect yourself. Scammers now even offer surprisingly (impossibly) low green energy rates knowing that people want to protect nature and reduce their carbon footprint. Never let a company contact you on your own. If you want to purchase a power plan, always be the one to contact the power provider. By acting first, you ensure good pricing and reduce the chances of getting scammed.