How to Recognize Energy Scams
Knock, knock. Who's there? Probably not a representative of ENERGY STAR® Canada, that's for sure! Your utility company, or any government agencies, have other ways to reach you. If someone is at your door or gives you a call and wants to talk about thermostats, water heaters, furnaces, or even replacement windows, it's most likely a scammer. And unfortunately, they'll say anything to get your personal information or your money.
Sneaky sales scams can happen to anyone and are often quite believable. Once they happen, Natural Resources Canada is powerless to help you. That's why it's important to know the warning signs so you can protect yourself. Use these tips to make sure you stay safe and scam-free.
1. Refuse any in-home inspection from a door-to-door salesperson
One of the most common scams happens when a salesperson knocks at your door. This person will usually say they’re visiting from a utility company, ENERGY STAR Canada, or even the Government of Canada. They may demand to inspect your water heater, furnace, windows, or another part of your home, and if you say no, they may make up another reason to enter. Turn them away and never let anyone into your home that you don’t know!
2. Never sign anything
If someone does visit your home, they may offer you an energy rebate, a free product, or claim they can lower your energy bills if you sign on the dotted line. Refuse! It's common for these contracts to say one thing on the page you sign and have a different text on the carbon copies underneath. In other words, the copy you get will say one thing while the copies the scammer retains will show you’ve actually signed something completely different. This can mean you end up owing a large sum of money, and there's little you can do about it after.
3. Do your research and double-check everything
If someone offers you a rebate, go online to research it or call your local utility company to investigate before accepting it. Some deceptive websites claim to offer rebates from the Government of Canada, it is best to check for rebates directly from the source. If Natural Resources Canada is offering any energy rebates, you’ll find them in our rebates and incentives directory. If a salesperson tells you the rebate is a one-time offer, it's probably a trap. Ask for a business card or other supporting information that you can research yourself. Remember: if it sounds too good to be true, it’s likely a scam.
4. Know your weaknesses
Scammers will target you based on things like where you live or your age. For example, a salesperson might claim to offer services like cheaper water softeners in rural areas, where they might be needed. Or in Canada's north, they might focus on heating products. Be aware of what might make you vulnerable and be conscious of people targeting you.
5. Avoid giving out personal information, online, over the phone or in person
Suspicious phone calls, text messages and emails are also common scam tactics. If you receive a text or email that includes suspicious links, never click them.
And never give out your banking or credit card information unless you are absolutely sure of who you’re dealing with. The same goes for personal information like your Social Insurance Number, date of birth, and other sensitive information. If someone demands you provide that information, offer to take their contact information and follow up with them later.
6. Report suspected scams
If you think you’ve been the target of a scam, report it. If scammers come to your home and claim to represent ENERGY STAR, remember to alert Natural Resources Canada. Also be sure to contact your local police and report the incident to the provincial, territorial, or federal consumer protection agency.
7. Help others
If you do fall victim to a scam, use your experience to alert others and combat these frauds. Scammers are very tricky, and can adapt their approach so people from all walks of life fall victim to their schemes. The more we all talk about deceptive sales tactics, the more we can help each other stay safe. Inform the people in your life about energy scams and protect them from being taken advantage of.
Always cross-reference information with credible sources online, like the Government of Canada sites or your municipal hydro company. Be cautious, smart and informed!
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