Look out for Energy supplier scams

The current energy price crisis and the collapse of smaller providers has created the perfect breeding ground for energy related scams that target millions of confused customers struggling to keep up with changes affecting their energy suppliers. (There are currently between 1 and 2 million customers of recently failed energy companies awaiting news or formalising the process on what happens next).

Scammers love nothing better than a crisis with lots of confusion, misinformation and payments relating to new account creations.

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Delivery Scam

When a supplier goes out of business the advice from Ofgem, according to their website, is:

“…take a photo of your meter reading then sit tight and wait to be contacted by the new supplier we appoint.”

Scammers love to operate in that great zone of uncertainty when a customer is waiting for news and ready to act as soon as contact as made with them, whether it is the appointed supplier or an opportunist scammer.

If you do receive any suspicious calls, emails or texts, check the Ofgem website for the truth against what you heard.  They are appointing new suppliers to take over from failed suppliers all the time and are keeping this list, and their advice, up to date.

Trading Standards officials say these massive changes (in the energy sector) have created a window of opportunity for scammers to trick unsuspecting customers into handing over their bank details.  Fraudsters have already been attempting to cold call households pretending to be well known energy suppliers, expertly using the latest headlines to give themselves credibility.  The scammers attempt to convince consumers that they are the new supplier and ask for their bank details.

Another real-world energy related scam sees face-to-face ‘salespeople’ knocking on doors and pretending they are there to help customers switch providers.

If you are targeted by these types of scams, do not respond to cold calls ‘in the moment’.  Never give out personal or bank details over the phone and never click on links in emails.  With so many things changing fast you should always feel confident enough to say ‘I need to check a few things first and won’t be making a decision right away’.

Pre-payment energy key scam

Another scam in the energy sector includes bogus salespeople selling ‘£50 of electricity pre-loaded onto a meter key for £25 cash’.  The criminals use cloned keys to illegally top up energy credit, but energy companies can detect the fraudulent key and, unfortunately, customers end up paying twice – first to the fraudsters and then to the energy company.

More than 100,000 UK households have been affected by this particular crime already, with the fraudsters claiming to represent all of the Big Six Energy Companies – British Gas, EDF Energy, E.ON UK, Npower, Scottish Power and SSE.  Authorities are investigating claims that organised crime is behind the scam and urging householders to send the fraudsters away swiftly.

IPS Member forced into new energy deals

Many members have been in touch to share their views about being ‘forced’ into a contract with a new supplier. With winter fast approaching and confidence in the continuity of supply being such an important issue, we acknowledge the commitment of Ofgem, the independent energy regulator, in saying:

“When we appoint a new supplier using the Supplier of Last Resort process, we try to get the best possible deal for customers”.

The harsh reality is you will be landing on a contract that you haven’t chosen and is likely, especially during the rest of 2021, to result in your bills going up.

Many people will be content to know they have a supplier who is still in business but IPS anticipate a flood of legal, semi-legal and downright illegal cold calls from opportunists determined to manipulate the situation with the promise of ‘lower bills’ whether that is a scam, a white lie or a hopeful wish.  We urge all of you in that position to be suspicious of anyone promising lower bills in the face of a global price rise.

Age UK provides useful information for family members worried about helping older or more vulnerable people get through this crisis and help with their heating costs.

IPS Advice

Our advice on pretty much all cold calling scams remains the same:
Don’t do anything in the moment when someone calls you. Don’t give them information and don’t say ‘Yes’.  If you find it too awkward to say ‘No’ then at least say you will be taking time to think through the situation.
After that call (or SMS or email of a similar theme) you should look up the company yourself and double check that what was said was true.  Once you are the one making the calls the scam is often derailed because they can no longer confuse you and pretend to be someone they are not.  You will feel a thrill if British Gas customer service (for example) say to you “Oh yes, that’s a scam we’ve been taking a lot of calls about”.  That’s the warm glow of foiling a fraud.
Talk with family and friends to catch up on what’s going on and share information.  Think about your older more vulnerable family members to help them get through it and remind them you are there to help.
If you do receive a message that you weren’t expecting and think could be a scam:
  • Don’t click on a link
  • Reply to the message or
  • Don’t follow the instructions in a letter
  • Don’t give them anything to go on
Good luck out there.

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