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Mole's Progressive Democrat

The Progressive Democrat Newsletter grew out of the frustration of the 2004 election. Originally intended for New York City progressives, its readership is now national. For anyone who wants to be alerted by email whenever this newsletter is updated (usually weekly), please send your email address and let me know what state you live in (so I can keep track of my readership).

Location: Brooklyn, New York, United States

I am a research biologist in NYC. Married with two kids living in Brooklyn.

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  • Thursday, July 16, 2009

    NYC FOCUS: Return of the Home Energy Scam

    I wrote about this some time ago, but apparently the home energy scams are back according to a reader. I just got a comment on an earlier post on this that indicates these scum are back at it. Here is the comment I just got:

    It seems they are on the prowl everywhere. I live in WIlliamsburg, Brooklyn and just had an IDT rep ring my door as well. It wasn't until I quickly googled them that I saw all these warnings about "IDT scams" - luckily BEFORE i signed anything. Thanks!

    I called ConEd afterwards and you can choose them as your supplier through ConEd if you wish, after doing research, instead of in the 10 minutes rush that these reps put you through. I asked if I could submit the forms online or mail them back to him so I have some time to think about it and the rep said "sorry but no" - that's the one clear sign that it's a scam. I'm glad that there are so many warnings online about this! Much appreciated!

    And here is my original warning from January:

    Apparently (and not surprisingly) some of those sales pitches you get about switching your energy provider are actually scams. I want to pass along a warning on the scams and pass along my own view of a legit energy choice.

    From Concerned Citizens of Greenwood Heights (a group I was not previously aware of, and thanks to Park Slope Neighbors for pointing them out) comes this info on a scam hitting New Yorkers (PDF):

    As a result of the deregulation of our local power companies, you can choose your third-party energy supplier through Con Edison or National Grid. Don’t allow a stranger to Force you to choose through deceptive, coercive or even illegal sales techniques. There has been an epidemic of local residents being intimidated into changing their provider due to misrepresentations by third-party sales staff of regional energy service companies (escos) going door-to-door claiming to “save you money on your electric or gas bill.” If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!

    Here’s how not to get scammed and “escos slammed” if you are visited or called by a sales RepResentative claiming to woRk FoR a utility company.

    1. Know the scam: “ESCOS slamming” begins when a representative of an ESCOS such as IDT Energy either misrepresents him/herself (“Hi, I work for Con Ed/National Grid”) OR misrepresents his/her intent (“Show me your Con Ed/National Grid bill—I want to save you money.”)

    2. Know the “slam”: “ESCOS slamming” happens when a third party provider’s sales reps (usually door-to-door salespeople) entice you into signing up for their “service” (e.g., IDT Energy misrepresents itself as being a direct provider to energy companies and thus if you “buy direct” from them, you will see a 7% reduction on your energy bill) OR sign you up for their service without your permission, by obtaining your personal information (name, address, Con Ed account number) or even by forging your signature. In many cases, instead of a reduction, you will see an increase in your monthly bill by $100 or more.

    3. Know your rights: It is your choice to use a third-party energy supplier and only your choice (for more info, visit www.poweryourway.com for a list of ESCOS and options [EDITOR'S NOTE: I recommend, as I will say below, choosing the Green Energy option]. If you get pressured into switching to a third-party provider, Just say no. If you were pressured to sign up with a different provider, feel you were mislead and signed up or were switched to a different energy company without your permission (“slammed”) call the number on your con edison or national grid bill immediately. You can refuse the service over the phone. You may still need to call the ESCOS to confirm the change has been made. Do it immediately!

    4. Take action: Even if you have not been scammed or “slammed,” you can take immediate control of your energy accounts by asking for an “escos freeze” on your accounts, requiring any changes to your account to come from you, not from a third-party ESCOS. If you have been scammed or “slammed,” request the “ESCOS freeze” immediately once you have restored Con Ed or National Grid as your energy provider.

    5. File a complaint: If you have been scammed or “slammed,” you can file a complaint and make a difference. Complaints can be filed with:

    Better Business Bureau http://welcome.bbb.org/

    NYS Public Service Commission http://www.dps.state.ny.us or 1-800-342-3377

    Federal Trade Commission, Bureau of Consumer Protection https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/

    you can always contact your local elected officials and community board for assistance.

    Now there ARE good energy options, and don't let these scams scare you away from choosing your own energy option. Joy and I chose to go green through ConEd Solutions three years ago. Our energy comes 100% from wind power through our normal ConEd bill, and we pay only a little more a month (I think 2.5 cents per kWh). There is also a mixture of 35% wind power and 65% small, run-of-the-river hydropower option which I think they added after we signed up. In some cases this is offset by incentives. We didn't really notice a difference when we switched and we know we are no longer adding to the major pollution problem that local power stations generate here in Brooklyn. If you signed up for this program, you would be making a HUGE difference in combating global warming. It could be the most significant thing you did this year.

    So beware the scam and join us in buying Green Energy.


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