Know the signs.
We are hearing from an alarming number of businesses being bombarded by constant phone calls from companies promising rebates or refunds, extremely low rates, outstanding contract terms, or all of the above. In some cases, the caller even claims they will pay early termination fees incurred for canceling an existing contract.
They will say whatever they need to say to get you to agree to their offer. Their tactics are often as simple as getting you talking to get the information they need to change your program. If they don’t get anywhere with you, they will likely try to trick your employees into agreeing on your behalf.
High-pressure methods characterize these callers. Often pushing for an immediate decision, they’ll tell you the offer is only good at that moment. Ask to see the contract in writing and offer to follow up later in the day. Chances are, you won’t see the contract you’re being asked to approve – or if you do, you won’t be given the necessary time to review it before the offer “expires.”
In these instances, it is important to understand the contract terms and the rate you can expect to pay. Often callers promise a low rate in combination with a credit or rebates in exchange for signing a contract with them. It may even seem like a good deal. But after the “introductory period” the rate changes – often beyond doubling – then businesses realize they’ve been swindled into a bad deal.
Other tricks may be even more deceptive.
The callers seem helpful, suggesting they’d like to see if they can’t help you get a “better rate” and then they ask you to get a copy of your bill so you can give them a little information. Once you provide them with the information – even if you don’t accept their offer – they will attempt to switch your provider. Often customers don’t immediately realize a change occurred until alerted to a problem – usually outrageously high bills.
This has had significant financial consequences for some businesses.
That’s why it’s important to have a plan for addressing such calls.
Here are a few quick tips:
- Don’t assume the Caller ID is correct. Scammers frequently spoof the phone number for utilities and energy suppliers to make it look like the phone call is coming from someplace legitimate.
- Hang up. Don’t wait on the line if you suspect something is wrong.
- Don’t provide callers with account information.
- Don’t agree to anything over the phone. Get it in writing.
- Tell the caller you intend on doing your research first.
- Research the company on the Better Business Bureau site.
- Review the Better Business Bureau’s scam tracker.
- Still not sure? Call your broker. If you don’t have one, call us at 1-866-646-7322. We can help.
- Educate your employees. Make sure everyone knows the name of your energy broker, supplier, or utility provider – or at least where to find the information.
Remember, credible energy companies will never pressure you for an immediate, over-the-phone decision.
If you suspect you’ve been scammed, take action.
- Call your energy broker.
- Report it to the Better Business Bureau.
- Ohio businesses are also encouraged to report energy scams to the Ohio Attorney General.
- You may also elect to report it to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission.
- Depending on the information surrendered to the scammer, it may also be necessary to contact your financial institution.
To help you educate your team, we’ve prepared a couple of free resources you can download here.