Energy Audit Con Promises Savings, Fools Homeowners

  
     
Homeowners should keep an eye on "free energy audits" scams. Read this scam alert to find out how this scam works and tips on how to protect yourself from becoming a victim.
February 09, 2016

It's the middle of winter and, for much of the US and Canada, that means high heating bills. Scammers know this, and they are tempting homeowners with a "free energy audit." Don't fall for this con.

How the Scam Works

You get a call or a knock on the door from someone claiming to provide "free energy audits." They may appear to represent your utility company or local government. In either case, the scammer wants to come into your home, look around, and identify ways for you to save on your utility bills. 

Don't let them in! The "energy audit" is really a set up for another scam; the actual con varies. In one recently reported version, scammers claimed after the audit that homeowners were eligible for government rebates or programs, a common scam where victims are asked to pay upfront for a non-existent grant. Other times, the "energy audit" is part of a high pressure sales technique, which tricks homeowners into purchasing marked up products (such as a $4,000 solar blanket) or shoddy construction work.   

Tips to avoid a utility impersonation scam: 

Local gas, water, and electric companies do sometimes contact their customers by phone. It can be difficult to tell a scammer from a real agent. Here are some tips:

  • Never allow anyone into your home to check electrical wiring, natural gas pipes, or appliances unless you have scheduled an appointment or reported a problem.
  • Ask utility employees for proper identification.  Make sure their ID card matches their story and uniform. 
  • Prepaid debit cards are a red flag. If a caller specifically asks you to pay by prepaid debit card or wire transfer, this is a huge warning sign. Your utility company will accept a check or credit card. 
  • Don't cave to pressure to pay immediately. If you feel pressured for immediate payment or personal information, hang up the phone and call the customer service number on your utility bill. This will ensure you are speaking to a real representative. 
  • Remember that electrical meters are the property of the utility company. It's never your responsibility to replace or repair them.  

For More Information

Read more about government grant scams and contractor scams on BBB.org. 

To find out more about other scams, check out BBB Scam Stopper (bbb.org/scam). To report a scam, go to BBB Scam Tracker (bbb.org/scamtracker).