In this blog, we’ll go over how to spot a for utility scam, how you can report an energy scam, and how Energy Ogre helps protect you.
In the heat of the Texas summer, we’ve got our air conditioner running, we’re sticking our head into the freezer for a brief second, spritzing ourselves with some water, or just straight jumping into the pool - whatever it takes to experience that brief moment of coolness.
Unfortunately, scammers know this is a time when electricity is on your mind, and some take advantage of that. This is especially true since the electricity pricing market is higher than it has been in many years. So scammers may get very creative to capitalize on wary consumers or exploit desperate Texans looking to lower their next bill.
Here are a few tips so you can avoid being a victim to any new energy scams.
How You Can Avoid Utility Scams
One of the first and most crucial things to remember is that your energy delivery company in Texas is not here to threaten you. These Transmission Distribution Service Providers (TDSP) will not contact you by phone, text, or by showing up to your home to demand and threaten you for direct payment to the delivery company, in exchange for not having your power being turned off. However, they may call you to let you know of a disconnection notice and that a payment would need to be made to your Retail Electric Provider. Here’s a list of the five TDSPs in Texas:
- Texas New Mexico Power (TNMP)
- American Electric Power (AEP) Central
- American Electric Power (AEP) North
For our Energy Ogre members, please contact us if you ever have any concerns about what’s going on with your electricity. We’ll happily address any concerns or answer any questions you have. As your electricity advocate, we’re on your side and want only what’s best for you.
To help keep you aware, here are some of the most common utility scams, according to Oncor.
Fake Contact Information
Scammers often mimic things like email addresses, websites, phone numbers and messages to seem more legitimate. Keep a careful eye out to see if you spot irregularities. Oncor says that while phone scams account for 75 percent of all imposter scams, email or text communication may also be attempted.
Scammers may claim they are “responding to reports of scammers in the neighborhood,” “are on site to perform unscheduled work that requires payment,” or many other excuses to gain a customer’s money or personal information.
In general, be careful of allowing a stranger to come into your home. An electric utility worker will not need to enter your residence to perform work.
Remember, you can always ask for photo identification. Don’t just take someone at their word. See if their photo matches up, and also look at their clothing. Delivery company workers will often be wearing company issued clothing with its logo on it. In addition, take a look at the car they’re driving. Again, these will normally be branded with the company’s logo.
When a TDSP Employee Might Come to Your Home
At times, legitimate workers from an electricity delivery company will show up at your home. They may be requiring access to equipment in your backyard, such as an electric pole line. If a gate is locked, they might even knock on your door for access. In more rural areas or for larger meters (some larger meters aren't smart meters, and some people have older non-smart meters), they might even be there to process a disconnect.
At times, they may request you pay your electric provider, so they don’t have to shut power off. Again though, you wouldn’t be paying the utility worker directly. That would be done through your provider. In general, the workers don’t want to shut the power off, and they don't want to have to come back out to turn it back on.
In the case that a worker comes to your house, before allowing them to enter your property, you can always call the company directly at the number on your bill. That way, you can see if everything is on the up and up.
Scammers may aggressively tell a customer their utility bill is past due and service will be disconnected if a large payment is not made.
Watch out for someone demanding to be paid in an unusual manner, such as a prepaid debit card or another non-refundable form of payment. The Federal Trade Commission adds that scammers are trying to get money through wiring companies like Western Union, reloadable gift cards and/or cryptocurrency.
The imposter may instruct a customer to use cash or quickly buy a prepaid debit card to cover the cost of a new meter, a meter upgrade, or some other form of unscheduled on-site work.
The scammer will insist that a recent payment encountered a system glitch and was not completed, and then they ask the customer to make a false payment or otherwise provide personal account information.
Be wary of a scammer asking for your Social Security Number, which could end up being used in an identity theft scheme.
Sadly, those are only a few of the scams. CenterPoint Energy lists other common scams as well.
How Do I Report An Energy Scam?
To report a scam, you can:
Contact the actual utility company the scammer was posing for. The more the TDSP is aware scams are going on, the better it can help others from being exploited.
Report it to the FTC at ReportFraud.ftc.gov
Report it to the Texas Attorney General’s Office
If you feel you’re being scammed, you can also hang up the phone and call the police.
How Energy Ogre Helps Protect You From Energy Contract Scams
While some scams are about your delivery company, other scammers pretend to be your Retail Electric Provider (REP). They might mention past due payments or payment issues in general.
Another one to watch out for, some door-to-door salespeople might come to your door promising immediate savings if you sign up immediately with their electricity service. Or perhaps, someone might ask to immediately see your bill, claiming they need your information to fix an account issue. Then, that gives them the opportunity to steal some of your important information, including your credit card info.
Energy Ogre Is On Your Side
When you sign up with Energy Ogre, we securely store the information needed to process your enrollment with a REP. If for some reason, someone claiming to be from the provider calls with a question about your account, you can call us and we’ll take care of it for you.
If you receive a voicemail from someone claiming to be with a retail provider, be careful not to just call the number left in the message. Calling that number may end up connecting you with a scammer. If you choose to call the electric company, the correct number would be listed on your bill. Again though, Energy Ogre will take care of any issues you may be having. Call us so we can get to the bottom of an issue. That’s what you pay us for!
How secure is my personal information with Energy Ogre?
Energy Ogre guarantees complete security of all the information provided to us. If you look at the address bar in your browser while you are signing up, there should be a green padlock icon. This icon confirms that the connection between your computer and Energy Ogre's servers is secure. It also means that every bit of information that you enter in your browser is first encrypted on your computer before it is sent to us, so even if it is intercepted by anyone it would be unreadable. We use these same security measures when enrolling you with retail electricity providers, which is the only time we will ever share your information.
Can Utilities Be Shut Off Right Now in Texas?
Your TDSP will never ask to collect money directly in order to avoid having your power service disconnected or shut off.
As far as power coming to your home, your Retail Electric Provider (REP) is the company that can make that decision. To have power turned off, the REP puts in a request to the TDSP, and then the delivery company disconnects the power.
The Public Utilities Commission of Texas provides these disconnection rules.
When can my electric service be or not be disconnected?
Under the rules of the Public Utility Commission of Texas, a REP may disconnect service after proper notice:
If you don’t pay your bill on time or don’t make arrangements with the REP to pay the charges you owe over time
If you don’t meet the terms of any deferred payment arrangement you’ve made with your REP
If you use your electric service in an unsafe manner as outlined in your service agreement
If you fail to pay deposits as required by your REP
A REP may disconnect service without prior notice:
If there’s an immediate safety issue
If the service is unauthorized or hooked up without a service contract
If the power company’s equipment, such as the meter, has been tampered with
A provider cannot disconnect your service for the following reasons:
If a previous resident of your home didn’t pay his/her electric bill on time
For not paying charges unrelated to electric service
For charges that are in dispute until the dispute has been settled in favor of the REP
For charges that didn’t appear on your bill or were billed in error
For charges due to under billing of service that was provided more than six months be- fore your current billing period.
If the National Weather Service issues a heat advisory or a cold alert in your area
For failure to pay an estimated bill other than a bill rendered pursuant to an approved meter-reading plan
Stay Secure, Stay Aware
Again, Energy Ogre is always here to help answer any of your electricity questions. Of course, that includes any concerns you may have when it comes to possible scams.
We stay on top of local scam alerts, and it’s helpful if you do as well. In addition to the summer, imposters are normally not far behind if a natural disaster causes power outages in your area. For more information on popular utility scams, visit the Utilities United Against Scams website.
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