Big energy bills can catch anyone off guard. It’s no wonder families throughout Montana are interested in energy efficiency upgrades and ways to save money on their bills. However, criminals are always lurking in the shadows. With colder months on the horizon, let’s look at some of the most common energy efficiency scams and how to avoid them.
Energy Saving Device Scams
Every day, Montanans fall victim to scammers posing as representatives of an energy provider trying to sell them one of these bogus devices. Those criminals either never deliver the product or disappear fast.
Don’t be fooled! The only thing an energy-saving device will do is cost you money and consume more energy. Actual money savings comes courtesy of the Montana Public Service Commission (PSC), which regulates most utilities in the state. The PSC strives to ensure energy rates are fair and affordable
Fake Utility Employee Scams
Americans are confronted with more than 33 million scam calls every day, according to the Electronic Privacy Information Center. That’s upwards of four scam calls per person. Some of those calls are criminals posing as employees or automated robocalls representing energy utilities. Energy scams promise a cash rebate due to an overpayment or threaten a service shut-off due to a missed payment. Criminals either ask for the victim’s private bank or credit card information to refund the money or push the person to make a payment with gift cards.
Don’t be fooled! Your energy utility will not request your credit card or bank information to provide a refund. If a refund is necessary, most will write you a check or provide a credit on your next bill. Additionally, utilities will never request payment by gift card. Furthermore, the PSC does not allow power to be shut off in the winter if anyone in a household is 62 or over or physically challenged, or if the account holder is on public assistance or lives below the federal poverty level.
Fake Energy Upgrade Scams
There are plenty of efficiency upgrades you can complete in your home to save energy and money, including these 6 Budget-Friendly Energy Efficient Upgrades.
Don’t be fooled! A legitimate contractor will have a license to do business in Montana. Verify the credentials of anyone you hire to do work on or in your home at dojmt.gov/consumer. Remember, if anyone promises to do work on your home but requires a large deposit, Montana law only allows contractors to request 5% of the total cost before the project is done.
Solar Power Scams
According to a recent Forbes report, the average American household could generate enough solar-powered electricity to help offset their energy bill.
Don’t be fooled! Those scammers will either steal your identity and credit card information or take your money and never deliver the solar panels. Verify any solar company with the Solar Energy Industry Association and the Interstate Renewable Energy Council before you hire them. Additionally, remember that a company cannot ask for more than 5% of the cost before finishing the work in Montana. If a company wants half of the money or more to order the panels, don’t trust them. As for solar lease or power purchase agreements, these are not illegal contracts. But, while you might not spend much money for the solar panels in the beginning, you will end up with a hard-to-break agreement and a monthly payment for something you don’t own.
Clearwater Credit Union has your Back
Connect with us. We’re here to help create opportunities for a better tomorrow. That includes access to funding for legitimate energy-efficiency upgrades or projects and the chance to hire legitimate companies and contractors you can trust.