How to Avoid Energy Provider Scams
Owning a home comes with many expenses. As with any expense, the goal is always to minimize its cost as much as possible. One of these inevitable expenses is your electricity bill. Unfortunately, there are criminals running electricity bill scams to try to capitalize on vulnerable people, looking to minimize their electricity bill. It is important to understand that these scams are indeed real and can target anyone.
While older adults are typically the usual scam victims, the Better Business Bureau has found that 70% of victims that are related to this type of scam were under the age of 45. 80% of these scam victims also had college degrees.
How do these scams mainly take place? There are two main forms: phone calls and door-to-door.
Our goal in this article is dive into both ends of these and give you information on how to protect yourself against them.
Given that this scam comes over the phone, criminals will tend to use more aggressive, pressuring tactics. The phone call typically starts with the scammer falsely claiming that they work for your energy provider.
It's important to understand that scammers can replicate the phone numbers and caller ID to make it appear as if they are in fact calling on behalf of your energy provider.
Once they have aimed at establishing their credibility, they will insist that you are behind on your electricity bill, demanding payment immediately. This typically is followed up by a threat that if you do not pay up, your electricity will be shut off that same day.
What to Look For
Given that these scammers can mirror your energy provider quite accurately, how can you identify whether you are the target of a scam or not?
Tip #1: Scammers typically request payment via unusual methods. Some examples include: cash, money orders, wire transfers, gift cards, or prepaid debit or credit cards. If a scammer is requesting any of these, this should be a dead giveaway. Your utility company would never request payment via these means.
Tip #2: The second sign of fraud is the demand for immediate action to be taken. Often times the scammer will demand that you take action while still on the phone. Why? They are trying to pressure you into action before you have had time to think it through or contact your energy provider.
The route that door-to-door scammers take is far different than that of phone scammers.In comparison, door-to-door scammers must use more finesse and con-man sales tactics since they are standing directly in front of you.
Door-to-door scammers will try to build a relationship with you by friendly conversation, in the same way that a door-to-door salesman would. Typically, these scammers will present you with an enticing option to enroll in a cost saving, lower energy rate.
What to Look For
It can be quite difficult to tell scammers apart from legitimate door-to-door employees, working on behalf of energy providers. However, by paying close attention, you can be confident in being able to differentiate between scammers and the real deal.
Tip #1: One of the first things to analyze in these situations are the clothing that the possible scammer is wearing. Is it branded with your energy providers logo? In the same regard, do they have materials with them that have your energy providers branding as well?
Tip #2: After you have analyzed the clothing, ask for proof of employment. Legitimate employees who travel door-to-door always carry identification that shows their legitimacy. So ask for it before letting them enter your home!
Tip #3: The last thing to be aware of is the request to write down any sensitive information. This could include credit card numbers or your social security number, for example. Reputable companies are armed with the latest and greatest technology. This information would be typically be entered by you on some sort of tablet, such as an iPad.
How to Protect Yourself
The best prevention against scams like these are to be aware of how they normally take place. In that case, pat yourself on the back for reading this article! You have taken the first step in protecting yourself from being a victim of these types of scams that are all too common.
Secondly always verify your account before believing anything that a caller or door-to-door individual says. If the caller or door-to-door individual is indeed a legitimate employee, they will have absolutely no problem with you verifying the details of your account.
If you have been targeted in an energy scam, what should you do? If you are unsure whether or not you were the target of scam, first contact the customer service department of your energy provider or the energy provider who called or visited you.
In the case that you are sure that you were targeted by a scam, call the police. In doing this, you will be protecting others who are less informed from being victimized by the scam.