Beware of possible utility scammers who may show up at your door

Ron Craig

        There have been reports in the area of people who show up at residents’ doors saying they are from your utility company, either natural gas or electricity. Some of these people may be working for a semi-legitimate company, but even those might have unscrupulous motives.
        They may be trying to get you to switch your utilities from your current provider, with whom you may be totally satisfied. They may also be there to scam you out of your personal information they or someone else may use to drain your bank accounts.
        Once they have your personal information, they can also use it for loans, such as to buy a car or even get a home loan. Either way, it will not turn out good for you.
        These people, who are supposedly from your own utility company, will usually ask to see your latest utility bill. This should be a red flag because if they are really from your utility company, they should already have that information. If you tell them they should already have this information, they will usually come up with some phony excuse why they still need it.
        In Lake Township, anyone selling something or soliciting door to door is supposed to get a permit from the township before they knock on the first door, but many times they do not bother to do this. Many of our surrounding townships, villages, and cities have similar regulations.
        It is noteworthy that permits are not required for members of a religious group going door to door, nor for anyone canvassing for political purposes (campaigning).
        Last year, a person showed up at my Lake Township home trying to tell me she was from my utility company. She had an official looking ID badge that was laminated in plastic. When I asked to see the ID closer, she hesitated. When I looked at it closer, it had the name of a third-party company whose purpose was to switch people to this third-party for payment of utilities.
        I challenged her choice of words “your utility company” and she became flustered. I then asked to see her permit, and she tried to tell me she lost it. As I walked away from my door and pretended to search for my utility bill, I called our dispatcher to ask an on-duty unit to respond to my residence. When I returned to my door, she was gone.
        These folks usually travel in groups, with someone dropping off the solicitors in a neighborhood, then picking them back up at a pre-designated time. When they think someone may be on to them, they usually leave that neighborhood quickly.
        Even if these people have permits, you need to be careful with whom you share your personal information. If you are satisfied with your utility companies’ services, don’t fall for their promises of lower rates. Many companies have hidden fees that jack up the artificial rates they quote, sometimes making the total bills higher than what you are currently paying. Do your homework before making any switches.
        In the worst-case scenario, you may find your bank accounts have been raided.
        This article is a public service from the Community Policing/Crime Prevention Division of the Lake Township Police Department. Township residents may obtain further information on crime


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