What is an energy scam?
Energy deregulation is a big part of life in Texas, and door-to-door energy scams unfortunately come with it. What is a door-to-door energy scam? They come in a few different forms:
- A salesperson comes to your door and promises you savings if you sign up right now.
- Someone claiming to be from your electric company tells you he or she needs to see your most recent bill to fix a problem with your account.
- A representative dressed in your electric utility’s uniform threatens to disconnect your service unless you pay an immediate fee or offers you an express service restoration during a power outage for a fee.
Door-to-door scams are a real problem in the deregulated energy space, with the third Wednesday of November officially designated as Utilities United Against Scams Day. In early December, the utility company AEP Texas warned customers in the Lone Star State of a scam in the San Angelo area.
So how can you avoid an expensive and cumbersome mistake?
How to protect yourself from energy scams
- Know the facts. Protect yourself before the doorbell even rings by knowing the name of your current provider and the rate you’re paying for electric service. Both of these things can be found on your bill and can save you from giving up personal information in the event someone does come knocking.
- On that note, don’t ever give your bill to anyone. Door-to-door scams work because the scammer sees your bill, writes down your account number, and can switch your service to a different plan and provider (likely with a different rate) without you ever knowing. If someone asks for your bill, that’s your first tip-off that they might be conducting a scam.
- Ask for ID. Many scammers wear uniforms that look like those of the company they claim to represent. But just because they look the part doesn’t mean they’re the real deal. You have the right to see their ID and call their supposed employer to find out if they’re legit.
- Be detail-oriented. If someone at your door offers you a better rate with a new plan, evaluate that plan carefully. Check the rate and how long the plan lasts (the term length). Know what happens when it ends and if there are cancellation or early termination fees involved. Don’t feel pressured to sign up on the spot.
- Stay informed. Know about any scams happening in your area and don’t be embarrassed to report an incident if you think you’ve been a victim of a scam. If that happens, you should call your provider (there should be a phone number on your bill), get in touch with the local police, and file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.
With these five tips, you can safely protect against energy scam activities. Remember, you always have the right to ask a door-to-door salesperson to leave your property. If you’re ever unsure, you can call your energy provider or your utility company at any time to see if what the person at your door is telling you checks out.
Jenna is a writer covering the environment and energy industry. She is a Massachusetts native and graduated from the University of Massachusetts Amherst with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and French.