Utility Scams

Unfortunately, scammers never rest and will take advantage of unsuspecting homeowners given the opportunity. The following information can help you avoid falling prey.

Do not automatically believe what the person at your door is saying, never feel pressured by the voice at the other end of the phone line. Making hasty changes to your utilities can prove to be far more costly in the long run.

If you have questions or concerns about who your electricity supplier is, please contact your utility. In Montgomery County, that could be Potomac Electric Power Company (PEPCO), Baltimore Gas and Electric (BGE), or Potomac Edison Company.

Here are some of the ways scammers will try to scam you.

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Utility Cutoff Phone Scam  

Scammers may use a myriad of methods in order to defraud homeowners. One of the most rampant methods is the "Utility Cutoff Phone Scam.” This scam entails someone posing as a representative from a utility company calling to tell you that your utility or water will be turned off immediately. Legitimate utility company representatives will NEVER ask a homeowner for immediate payment via gift card, wire transfer, or cash app. Nor would they threaten to interrupt service immediately. A warning that you are talking to a scammer would be if they demanded your social security number or account number. Remember that this person called you and should already have your account information and do not need your SSN for verification. Keep calm no matter how clever or threatening the caller is on the other end and never provide them with any of your personal information.

A twist on the utility cut-off scam is the utility discount scam. The caller offers a discount on your monthly bill if you provide a credit or debit card. There is no discount, just the theft of your bank account information.

So, what's the best action to take? Simply hang up, then contact your utility provider from the number you find on your bill or online in order to verify any issues with your account. Scammers will provide you a number to their colleagues. The Federal Trade Commission has more information on how you can Empower Yourself.

 

 
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Slamming (Switching Energy Supply Companies)

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“Slamming” is the practice of switching your utility supplier and is another favorite of scammers. So, you wonder how scammers are able to switch your energy supplier? Remember Maryland is a choice state, so you can choose a different energy supplier. So for electricity, you can choose the default supplier or switch to solar, wind or other energy source. No matter the supplier of electricity, PEPCO would still send your bills. Here’s where the scammers come in.

Legally, a salesperson comes to your door, or calls you on the phone, to ask if you want to switch energy suppliers and pitches their product or claims to have a better rate than your current supplier. Scammers might not take no for an answer and switch your supplier anyway. They may claim to be “from your utility company” or “the government” and need to see your bill in order to determine if you are eligible for discounts. Your bill has your account number which is how they make the switch.

Absolutely, under no circumstances show these individuals a copy of your bill. In some instances, the person at your door may try and create a sense of urgency or even threaten not to leave your property until she’s seen your bill. This is your home so you can simply close your door.

If at a later time, you decide to change your supplier company, do your homework and research which company will be the best fit for you. The Montgomery Energy Connection website can help you research programs and options on your energy consumption. The AARP has more information regarding this slamming scam. If you have questions about who your electricity supplier is, please contact your utility. In Montgomery County, that could be Potomac Electric Power Company (PEPCO), Baltimore Gas and Electric (BGE), or Potomac Edison Company.

 

 
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Home Energy Audit Scam

Home Energy Audit Scam

As the Department of Energy notes, home energy audits can save you money and improve the comfort of your home. Similar to how scammers approach homeowners in utility switching, someone posing as a utility worker or a reputable business comes to your door offering a free home energy audit. Within a short period of time, the individual at your door will begin a sales pitch on how wonderful their product or service is. One way to counter these scammers is to be as direct as possible and request to see proof of employment or ID as well as their required door to door salesmen’s license.

Scammer will be reluctant or unwilling to produce these forms of identification. If the salesman cannot verify who they work for or the employer identification does not match up with what they have told you, then chances are they are a fraud. So, what's the best way to deal with a fraud? By closing the door then confirming with your utility or supplier and inquire if they had contractors in your area. Two examples of legitimate home energy audit firms would be the EmPOWER Maryland program offering Quick Home Energy Checkups at no cost and Home Energy Audits for $100. EmPOWER Maryland will not usually come door to door and they do not do robocalls. Call your utility to learn more about those programs. The AARP provides further information on this scam.

 

 
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Water Filter Scam

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Scammers prey on homeowners’ fears of the effect chemicals, minerals, and diseases on their water safety and security. These criminals posed as a representative from the Environmental Protection Agency or the WSSC and come to your home. They inform you that your water is contaminated after conducting “tests” or leaving behind a “free survey” for you to perform. No matter how you respond the “ test” results will result in the scammers telling you that your water is contaminated. These scammers, posing as government agencies, then would suggest consumers purchase expensive water purification equipment to keep their family safe.

 

 

 
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Water scam