Scam Avoidance

Every summer, soaring energy demand and usage become a substantial expense for many households, and criminals know this. They run utility scams to take advantage of customers looking for ways to save on their energy—and to scare and exploit those who are unsure of details of their energy contract. Scammers often try to coerce a "payment" out of unsuspecting targets by threatening to cut off your service and leave you in the dark and heat.

What to Look Out for to Avoid Being Scammed

There are two common types of utility scams—the phone call from a fake representative of your utility company and the more brazen door-to-door promotional pricing or product scam. The information below will help you identify these cons and avoid being swindled this summer.

Phone Scams

Criminals try to take advantage of people by calling and demanding payment immediately.

Watch out for

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Criminals try to take advantage of people by calling and demanding payment immediately.

Threats to cut your power immediately without payment

Fuzzy details about your agreement with energy provider

Requests for money transfers or prepaid debit cards

These scams tend to use aggressive and intimidating tactics. You’ll receive a call from a scammer claiming to be a representative of your local utility company or energy provider. They will insist you’re behind on your electricity bill payments and your account is delinquent. They often threaten to shut off your electricity or natural gas immediately, usually within the hour or that same day if you don’t pay up.

If you miss the call, you may receive a message stating that you owe a large but specific amount of money, usually hundreds of dollars. The imposter will leave a callback number for their “direct line,” and a threat to disconnect your energy service that day.

Well-organized scammers can even spoof, or replicate, the phone number that appears on your caller ID to make it look like it’s coming from your energy provider.

At this point, you might be panicking, and that’s what these fraudsters are counting on. You don’t think clearly when you’re frightened or alarmed, so you could forget that you’ve paid the last few bills on time, or that you have automatic payments set up.

How to Identify a Utility Scammer Over the Phone

These fraudsters usually request “payment” by strange or unconventional means. Demands for prepaid debit or credit cards, gift cards, wire transfers, money orders, or cash are a dead giveaway that the person you’re speaking with is trying to scam you. Another sign is extreme urgency. Scammers may insist you have to pay in the next hour. Often, they will try to keep you on the phone to hurry and badger you, preventing you from realizing that you’re being deceived.

Door-to-door Scams

A suspicious person who rings your doorbell and claims they work for your energy provider

Watch out for

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A suspicious person who rings your doorbell and claims they work for your energy provider

Absence of branded clothing and materials

No proof of employment with energy company

Asks for payment via check in their name or cash

Door-to-door scammers are more like the stereotypical con man. They impersonate legitimate door-to-door sales representatives and offer to help you get lower rates and save on your energy expenses. They’ll try to establish a rapport and gently pull personal details out of you through friendly conversation. Their ploy is different from the phone scammers.

They want you to “enroll” for a lower energy rate or buy specific products from them (that would arrive at a later date, of course). They may ask for your credit card number, bank account information, or your social security number. Some also try to accept checks made out to their name—not the energy company’s name—or cash with the promise of a special energy rate or expensive home products.

How to Identify a Door-to-door Scammer

It can be difficult to tell legitimate door-to-door employees apart from the imposters if you’re not paying close attention. Legitimate employees always carry a permit with them, so be sure to ask for it before letting anyone inside your home. Our team members also wear branded clothing like shirts, jackets, and hats with our logo. If you aren’t offered a business card or don’t see printed materials with a description of energy plans and rates, chances are the person on your doorstep is a scammer.

Our door-to-door employees won’t ask you to write down any sensitive information like credit card numbers or your social security number, so be wary if someone comes knocking and asks for this information. Any private data must be securely entered into our system via iPad by the customer themselves. Just Energy door-to-door members do not enter this information into any application themselves to protect the security of your data. They will also ensure that you receive a copy of your new contract.

Who’s at Risk for Being Scammed?

Older adults are often depicted as the typical scam victims, but the Better Business Bureau found that nearly 70% of those who were scammed are under the age of 45, and almost 80% held college degrees. Anyone can be vulnerable to being scammed; it’s not just the gullible or trusting. Successful fraudsters are usually experts at manipulation.

70%

80%

of those who were scammed are under the age of 45

had college degrees

had college degrees

To avoid being taken advantage of, know the basic details about your energy bill—your energy provider, the type and length of your plan, and what services you pay for. Make sure your partner or spouse knows these basic details so they won’t fall victim to these schemes either. Fraudsters typically don’t have access to much of your personal information. They could have found your name, address, and phone number from public records or information available on your social media accounts or employer’s website.

If your landlord is responsible for paying for your energy, the energy company will know to bill them. Send any letters you receive for non-payment directly to your landlord or property manager. If you don’t have a direct, documented relationship with the local utility company or an energy provider, it’s highly unlikely you could owe them money. If you’re unsure of your responsibilities, call the customer service line featured prominently on the energy provider’s website. They’ll be able to confirm whether or not you’re accountable for energy payments.

What to Do If You’ve Been Targeted in an Energy Scam

If you get a suspicious call demanding sensitive information or asking for nontraditional payment methods, hang up and call the police. It’s important to report scams to help protect other people from falling for it and being exploited.

If you’re unsure that if spoke with someone who was trying to con you, contact your energy provider’s customer service team. They’ll be able to lookup and verify your account status.

How to Protect Yourself

Always verify your account status before paying

Ask for identification or proof of identification

Familiarize yourself with scam reports in the area

How to Avoid Falling Prey to a Utility Scam

Simply knowing about the types of scams criminals run is your best defense against falling for one. You should protect identifying information about yourself and always confirm the status of your account before believing anything someone says during an unsolicited call or visit. A legitimate company representative will be happy to let you confirm your account details.

Protect Your Information

Never throw out documents like bills that contain your personal information or billing details. Shred or burn these documents when you’re done with them. Better yet—go paperless. If you do your billing on a shared or public computer, log out of your email and bank account when you’re done and never save any passwords in the web browser.

Verify Your Account Status

Check your account status by logging on to our web portal, opening the app, or calling customer service directly. If your account is overdue, you’ll be able to clearly see what you owe, how much energy you have used, and what plan you’re enrolled in. Most energy providers send multiple notices if you miss payments or your account has an overdue balance, so be sure to check your home’s mailbox or your inbox for these alerts.

Verify Their Information

Make sure the company a caller or visitor represents actually has an online presence. Search the name online and be sure that the organization offers service in your area. You can also ask whomever you speak with for their employee number. Even if they don’t have one, they should still be able to prove they work for a legitimate company by showing you a badge, detailed printed materials, or by providing a permit.

Knowledge Is Power

Familiarize yourself with your energy contract. Are you on a fixed-rate plan? These types of agreements offer peace of mind, especially if you live in a place where the summer heat regularly climbs past 100ºF. Keep track of your billing history so you know what a normal bill should look like in July or August. Assuming you live in the same home, last year’s bill should probably be around the same amount.

Don’t let your friends, family, or neighbors fall for a utility scam this summer. Share this link so they know what to do if they receive a suspicious call or someone with dubious credentials turns up on their doorstep.