Energy scams that put consumers at risk are an unfortunate reality some may face while exploring the sector, and USACEA goes to great lengths to inform people on the types of scams out there, their impact, and how they can be prevented with due diligence.
USACEA recognizes that, while there are many different ways that scammers will try to harvest confidential information, most scams fall into three distinct categories. Here, USACEA explores the three most common types of energy scams as well as how consumers can prevent falling victim to them.
In-person scams involve a scammer visiting your residence uninvited. This type of scam can involve a fake representative offering to repair or replace a utility or sign you up for a new program. Both of these offers are a deception and are pitched in an attempt to scam the homeowner. Utility repair or replacement is a method for thieves to get access to your home where they will have the opportunity to steal valuable items or even pieces of mail that may have confidential information within. Similarly, in-person scams involving sign ups, rewards, new services, etc. are a means for a scammer to access personal information that can be used for fraud.
Luckily, there are many ways that consumers can thwart in-person energy scams. One of the easiest ways is to always ask for ID from anyone who asks to enter your home for any reason. If in doubt, refuse and take the opportunity to confirm the identity of the employee and energy provider. People who ask to see your energy bill or for you to confirm confidential information are likely scammers—your real provider will not need to do this.
Phone scams are carried out when a scammer calls an individual or business claiming that it is on behalf of your energy provider or local utility company. Typically, they will introduce themselves and follow up with a comment about an overdue payment, recent rate hike, expiring plan, new service, etc., but this is a ruse in an attempt to receive confidential information from the consumer.
Phone scams rely on urgency and intimidation to be successful. They may be pushy in an attempt to get you to pay them directly or provide confidential, personal information without a second thought by threatening to cut off services, report to another authority, or send you to collections. This sense of urgency can actually be the scam’s undoing. Actual representatives from your utility company will not be pushy in their requests, provide business details and will never request personal data over the phone.
Phishing scams can be thwarted by taking the time to verify information that you receive from your caller. You can always say that you will call them back and, instead, call the customer service number provided by your energy company if in doubt!
Email Scams (Phishing)
Phishing scams are carried out when scammers send emails or other emails under the disguise of a trusted energy company to receive access to personal information such as credit card numbers, bank account info, social security number, passwords, etc. Information is often harvested by tricking a consumer into giving their sensitive personal and financial information outright or may include a link within the mail that contains malware designed to harvest information on your device.
Phishing is one of the most popular energy scams because the scammer just needs to send a legitimate looking email from what looks like the email address of the provider, and the deception can be easy to fall for if you do not know what to look out for. One of the best ways to avoid phishing scams is by avoiding clicking on links within unsolicited emails and texts. Trusted utility companies will never contact you for information such as passwords, usernames, or other identifying data, so emails that request this are likely from scammers.
Protecting Yourself Against Common Energy Scams Can Be Easy!
It is a shame that consumers who are living honestly can be swindled out of their hard earned money and sense of security by scammers looking to take advantage, but being diligent is something that we simply must do to protect ourselves against common forms of scams.
USACEA scam research reveals that there are many ways that we can look to prevent falling victim to energy scams as we navigate the solar space. One simple solution is to avoid being rushed into making hasty decisions via calls, emails, or door-to-door interactions. Simple steps to verify information that you receive from potential scammers can make a ruse fall apart very quickly. All trusted utility companies will have a public number that you can call for customer service reasons, and a call can reveal the status of your account, authentic rewards, other information that a scammer may claim to gain access to your personal information.
In short, trusting your gut, remaining skeptical, and taking your time are all virtues when it comes to preventing energy scams. Stay up to speed on what to look out for when it comes to both common and little known scams and you will be well on your way towards making more informed decisions in the solar space and utility sector as a whole!