Better Business Bureau Alerts Local Schools; Targets of Utility Scheme
Business Bureau Alerts Local Schools; Targets of Utility Scheme
BETTER BUSINESS BUREAU® NEWS RELEASE
Central IL (August 14, 2019)Many schools are
days away from opening their doors to hundreds of children as the 2019
school year begins. Registration, schedules, menus, supply lists, class
lists are just some examples of reasons that school Administrators might
not look into a scheme coming over their fax.
Chris Landstrom of Twin City Energy Services of
Bloomington Illinois and BBB Accredited since 2012,
contacted the Better Business Bureau about a common utility scheme
targeting local schools. According to Landstrom, who has been in business
since 2011, "It's the time of year this kind of scheme switches
gears from targeting business to targeting busy schools."
Here is how it works:
The business or school may initially receive a voice mail
from a non descriptive company indicating either there has been a problem
with the electric charges on the utility bill or an issue with supply
charges then requests a call back. Later the school or business then
receives a vague fax, requesting a call. The scammer is hoping to change
the caller's current utility provider to another provider, unbeknownst to
the caller. This means the caller is likely breaching a current contact
and is not aware of the terms of this new provider's contract; the rate
and length of time before the rate may change.
"The basis of the scheme is misleading and deceptive
business practices", said Jessica Tharp, President and CEO of the
Better Business Bureau serving Central Illinois. "The client (school
or business) is led to believe they are communicating with their current
service provider, and renewing an agreement in which they are already
know the terms and conditions, when in fact they are not."
"I've seen this scheme play out locally before.
People need to be cautious because there are so many times clients are
not even aware they have agreed to switch companies. In some cases it can
cost thousands of dollars to unwind a company or school from the
financial position of a current contract with a provider." said
Today BBB received reports of two schools in Ford County
receiving this fax, hoping to generate the same result. BBB suspects many
other schools in Central Illinois have received a similar letter. During
the course of drafting this release, BBB received a fax as well. After
calling the phone number listed on the fax 877-404-5801, the
representative claimed to be working for Energy Professionals. BBB of Central
Illinois is working with the BBB in Clearwater Florida to develop a
offers the following Tips for Schools and Businesses to avoid being a
victim of this scheme:
For commercial consumers, there are options for the
purchasing of your natural gas and or electric needs. Below are some
points to know what to look for when looking at other options than what
your local utility charges you for your commodity needs.
·Your local utility will never call
you over the phone or stop by your business to ask you for a copy of your
utility bill: they already have this information. Be careful of what
information you provide someone over the phone. I
have worked with many commercial consumers over the years to unwind
contracts that took place over the phone and the consumer got slammed
(signed up unknowingly) and did not realize it. When companies call
you, be careful of what information you supply to them over the
phone. I have seen consumers slammed and signed up with a supplier
that called them. Just remember that if someone calls and sounds like
they are the utility, they are likely just trying to get you to give them
your account information to sign you up for service. Don’t be afraid
to ask them to send you information in the mail so you can review it first,
but still do not give them your account information unless you feel secure
with the information they are providing you.
·Be aware of emails you receive from
suppliers or brokers claiming to be from the renewal department of your
current utility company. Make sure you are talking to a representative
from your current company, not a salesperson trying to attain your business
·Know the terms of your current
contract. It is the best practice for businesses to have this
information readily available. By signing another contract that
overlaps your current contract can occur a big unwind fee either from your
current supplier or the contract that was just signed. When signing a
contract for either the natural gas or the electric this is a financial
hedge that is made and is susceptible to fees to unwind that position.
·About 90% of all supplies and
brokering companies will try to sell an all-in commodity rate product to
you the consumer. The majority of all companies in this industry would
rather try to sell you this product rather than looking to see what product
would work best for your company. A reputable supplier or brokering
company would sit down with you to see what you are currently doing and
analyze your data to recommend the best product for your business.
·When it comes to all-in commodity
rates on the electric, note that an all-in rate is not really an all-in
rate. All supplier contracts have a term in their contract called
“Change in Law”, this allows a supplier to pass through any additional cost
onto you the consumer in the event that one of the tariff charges of the
commodity goes up higher than what was expected when you signed this
contract. A supplier will add any additional fees to the price
being presented to you as an insurance policy, however if one of these
charges go up dramatically then they can pass that onto you. The
tariff charges of the commodity here in Illinois include: line loss,
ancillary, transmission, capacity and renewable charges. Please note
that effective June 1, 2019 the renewable charges, (RPS), will be not
charged by the supplier anymore, but they will be charged by the local
utility company on their monthly charges for delivery.
·Contact your local Better Business
Bureau office about a supplier that you are looking at to see they are a
reputable company to work with.
urges everyone to report scam attempts, even if you didn’t lose money, to BBB Scamtracker.
a nonprofit, business-supported organization that sets and upholds high
standards for fair and honest business behavior. BBB services to consumers
are free of charge. BBB provides objective advice, BBB Business
Profiles on more than 5.3 million companies, 11,000 charity
reviews, dispute resolution services, alerts and educational information on
topics affecting marketplace trust. Visit bbb.org for more information.