Knock, knock. Who's there? Not ENERGY STAR Canada, that's for sure. In fact, if someone is at your door without your invitation, and wants to talk to you about thermostats, water heaters, furnaces, or even replacement windows, it's not your utility or any other government representative either. Most likely, the person at the door is a scammer, and unfortunately, they'll say anything to get your money.
Sneaky sales scams can happen to anyone and are often quite believable. And once they happen and your money is gone, Natural Resources Canada has no power to help you get it back. 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.
- Don't let anyone enter your home unless you're expecting them. One of the most common scams happens when a salesperson knocks at your door. This person will usually say they are visiting from a utility company, ENERGY STAR Canada, or even the Government of Canada. The salesperson may demand to inspect your water heater, furnace, windows, or another part of your home, and if you refuse to let them do an inspection, they may make up another reason to enter. Don't fall for it!
- Never sign anything. If someone does visit your home, they may offer you an energy rebate, a free product, or say they can lower your energy bills if you sign on the dotted line. Don't do it! It's not uncommon for these contracts to say one thing on the page you sign, but the carbon copies underneath have different text. So, the copy you get says one thing, but you've actually signed something completely different. This can mean you end up owing a large amount of money, and there's not much you can do about it. In some cases, this has led to liens being placed on people's homes.
- Do your research and double-check everything. If someone does offer 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, but the Government of Canada does not offer energy rebates. If a salesperson tells you the rebate is a one-time offer, it's probably not real. Remember: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
- Know your weaknesses. Scammers will target you based on things like where you live or your age. For example, a door-to-door salesperson might claim to offer services like cheaper water softeners in rural areas, where that might be needed. Or in Canada's north, they might focus on heating products. Know what kinds of things make you vulnerable and be on the lookout for people targeting you because of that.
- Don't give out personal information, online or in person. Never give out your banking or credit card information unless you are absolutely sure of who you are paying. The same goes for your 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 business card and follow up with them once you've looked into who they are.
- Look after each other. Seniors and new Canadians are especially vulnerable to scams. Help educate the people in your life about energy scams to protect them from being taken advantage of.
- Report suspected scams. If you ever think you have been the target of a scam, report it. If scammers come to your home and claim to represent ENERGY STAR, don't forget to tell Natural Resources Canada. If you have fallen victim to a scam, be sure to contact your local police and report the incident to the provincial, territorial, or federal consumer protection agency.
- Don't be ashamed. If you do fall victim to a scam, don't be embarrassed. Scammers are very clever, and people from all walks of life fall victim to scams. The more Canadians talk about deceptive sales tactics, the more we can help each other stay safe.