How to Avoid Getting Burned by Energy Scams

In Massachusetts, several companies sell renewable energy directly to consumers.  While some of these companies are legitimate, unfortunately, some are deceptive or even scams.  As a consumer, you can protect yourself from scammers by being aware of how they operate.

Scammers may try to reach you online, over the phone, or at your front door.  A representative may claim to be working with Eversource, but in truth, Eversource does not send out salespeople or make sales calls.  If the representative is at your doorstep, don’t invite them into your home.  Ask to see a company-issued photo ID.  All Eversource employees are required to carry them, as well as to show them upon request.

Legitimate companies expect their representatives to be polite at all times. Be suspicious if a representative is rude, pushy, or angry.  A scammer may also ask for your billing or personal information, which can lead to the scammer signing you up for an energy contract without your knowledge, or even identity theft.  Eversource and other legitimate companies keep customers’ information on file; they don’t need to ask you for it.

The most obvious sign of fraud is when a representative demands that you pay them immediately.  They may say that it’s urgent for you to get a discount, or even to prevent your electricity from being shut off.  Scammers often say you must use a prepaid debit card or wire them the money you owe.

First, Massachusetts laws require companies to notify customers in writing of a potential power shut-off.  They must also give several weeks’ notice.  Second, legitimate companies give you several payment options, and never tell you to use a prepaid debit card.

If you’re targeted by scammers, you have every right to report them.  You can check the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities (DPU) for a list of licensed energy companies, or call the department at 617-305-3500. You can also reach out to the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office  or 617-727-2200.  If scammers threaten or harass you, call the police.

Ultimately, the best way for consumers to purchase renewable energy is through Community Choice Energy (CCE). This means that the City of Boston, instead of Eversource, would choose the source of electricity for every household and business in the city that is currently on Eversource’s Basic Service.  With CCE, the City could negotiate a fair deal that would stabilize costs for Boston residents, avoiding the twice-yearly price fluctuations we currently have with  Eversource. Also by tapping into the power of bulk buying, Boston could follow the example of many other towns in eastern Mass and increase the percentage of renewable energy in our electricity mix, at costs comparable to the less-green Basic Service.  Consumers would still get their electricity bill from Eversource, with the supply portion of the bill determined by the City. Knowing that they’re already getting more renewable power thanks to the work of city officials, city residents and businesses would have the information and confidence they need to say “no thanks” to green energy scammers.

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