Over the last few years, energy consumers and building owners have been confronted with several internet and phone scams. An “agent” will impersonate a utility company, or reaches out representing an unqualified Energy Supply Company (ESCO). These methods have been successful, in part, because these agents can be quite convincing and often use energy jargon to appear knowledgeable and reliable.

Identifying the Utility

A New York City client of Bright Power recently received a phone call from someone claiming to represent Con Ed, a local utility company. As our client describes, “We had past experience with Con Ed concerning overdue or misapplied payments. This made the extremely aggressive demand for a $2,000 cash payment to prevent a power shut off in less than an hour, actually sound plausible. Our first response was to seek the immediate and helpful assistance of Bright Power, who quickly investigated and confirmed the paid status of our accounts. The administrative assistant, who received the original call, confirmed thereafter that there was no shutoff pending with Con Ed.”

We were able to quickly identify the scam and avoid a $2,000 false charge. To help protect your business from these claims, here are a few basic red flags:

  1. Be wary of requests for Tax IDs, credit card numbers, utility account numbers or protected information.
  2. Question sudden or pressured monetary requests. Utilities and most reputable businesses do not operate this way.
  3. Verify employee IDs prior to providing information or payment. Con Ed employees, for example, are required to have company IDs accessible.

Buying With a Reputable ESCO

There are many trustworthy Energy Supply Companies (ESCOs) that Bright Power works with that prove to be valued business partners in controlling energy costs. On the other hand, there are many unreliable ESCOs and energy brokers that use tactics that inevitably cause consumers to pay more in the long run.

Recently, a Bright Power client was approached by an ESCO and convinced to sign up for “a great rate for three years” over the phone.  The client asked us to review the contract after the fact, and we identified some major issues. Luckily, we were within the three day cancellation window and assisted our client in withdrawing from the costly supply contract. We then locked them into a better rate via a transparent and market-based bid process, resulting in a savings of $18,000 from the original phone contract.

Always be careful with any phone call from an unfamiliar ESCO or energy broker. Unscrupulous agents have been pushing clients to contract their accounts through recorded sales calls and rushed decisions. Some will even enroll the account without your consent, a practice also known as “slamming.”

Pressing pause on an energy purchasing strategy until you feel confident and knowledgeable in your direction will lend to a favorable outcome.

How to Protect Your Accounts

  • Designate one or two of your employees, who are well informed, to discuss all energy matters with the utilities or ESCOs.
  • Consider using experienced and reliable consultants or brokers that can provide guidance, support, and clarity in this jargon-filled and continuously changing energy supply world.
  • Check out Con Ed’s #STOPSCAMS for more helpful information on protecting your energy accounts.