As the cost-of-living crisis worsens there has been a significant increase in scammers impersonating energy firms to trick victims into handing over money or payment details. January 2022 saw a 27% increase in energy scam reports compared with the previous January. This blog post will list the top 8 energy scams to watch out for.
One of the most common scams involves doorstep misrepresentation, where fraudsters pose as energy suppliers or representatives. They employ high-pressure tactics, coercing consumers into signing up for new contracts or switching providers without their informed consent. To protect against this scam, it is crucial to verify the identification of any doorstep salesperson and never feel rushed into making hasty decisions.
Energy Saving Devices
Another prevalent scam targets energy-conscious consumers seeking to reduce their energy bills. Fraudsters promote fake energy-saving devices that promise substantial reductions in energy consumption. These devices are often ineffective, leading consumers to waste their money. To avoid falling victim, consumers should research products thoroughly, consult genuine consumer reviews, and only purchase devices from reputable suppliers.
Misleading Tariff Offers
Energy suppliers occasionally advertise seemingly attractive tariff offers to entice customers, only to burden them with hidden costs or inflated rates. This deceptive practice can be prevented by reading the fine print, understanding the terms and conditions of the contract, and comparing prices across different suppliers before committing to a new tariff.
Bogus Energy Surveys
Scammers posing as energy surveyors offer free home assessments, claiming to identify energy-saving opportunities. However, they use this opportunity to gain access to personal information or push unnecessary products or services. Consumers should always confirm the legitimacy of energy surveyors by contacting their energy supplier directly before granting them access to their homes.
Prepaid Meter Fraud
Prepaid meters are commonly used to manage energy consumption, especially in rental properties. Scammers exploit this system by selling fraudulent prepaid cards that provide illegitimate credit, leaving consumers with no actual energy supply. To protect against this scam, it is essential to purchase prepaid cards directly from authorized sellers and report any suspicious activities to the energy supplier.
Phishing and Smishing
In the digital age, phishing and smishing (SMS phishing) scams have become prevalent. Fraudsters send emails or text messages, pretending to be legitimate energy suppliers, and request personal information or immediate payment. Consumers should exercise caution and avoid clicking on suspicious links or providing sensitive information unless they are certain of the sender’s authenticity.
Fake Renewables Investment
As renewable energy gains momentum, scammers exploit the public’s interest by offering fraudulent investment opportunities. They promise lucrative returns on renewable energy projects or shares in non-existent green companies. Consumers should conduct thorough research, seek advice from financial professionals, and only invest through authorized and regulated platforms.
Meter tampering is a dangerous scam that involves unauthorized modification or interference with energy meters to reduce or bypass electricity or gas charges. This not only risks safety but is also illegal. Consumers should report any suspicious meter behavior to their energy supplier and avoid engaging with anyone offering such illegal services.
How Do I Protect Myself From The Energy Scams
Protecting yourself from energy scams in the UK is crucial to avoid financial loss and potential harm. Here are some steps you can take to safeguard yourself:
- Be cautious of unsolicited contact: Scammers often use cold calls, emails, and doorstep visits to target potential victims. Be wary of unsolicited communications, especially if they pressure you to make immediate decisions.
- Verify the identity of the caller: If someone claims to represent an energy company, ask for their name, department, and contact information. Take the time to independently verify their identity by contacting the energy company directly using the official contact details found on their website or bill.
- Guard your personal information: Never provide personal or financial details to unsolicited callers or respond to emails requesting sensitive information. Legitimate energy companies will not ask for such information out of the blue.
- Be cautious with energy-related offers: If an offer seems too good to be true, it probably is. Beware of unexpected offers promising significantly reduced energy bills, unusual payment methods, or exclusive deals. Verify any offers with your energy supplier directly.
- Register with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS): To reduce unwanted cold calls, register your landline and mobile number with the TPS. It is free and helps limit the number of calls you receive from telemarketers.
- Use secure online practices: If you engage with energy-related services online, make sure you’re using secure websites. Look for the padlock symbol and “https://” at the beginning of the website address to ensure a secure connection.
- Stay updated with scam alerts: Keep abreast of the latest scams reported by energy companies, regulatory authorities, and consumer protection organizations. These warnings can help you stay informed and avoid falling victim to new scams.
- Report suspicious activity: If you suspect that you have encountered an energy scam, report it immediately. Notify your energy supplier, the local authorities, and the appropriate regulatory agency, such as Action Fraud in the UK.