Green Dot Card Scams (Prepaid Card Scam)
In a Green Dot card scam, imposters pretend to be utility company employees as they call or visit customers, telling them they have overdue energy bills. The scammers make the customer panic, telling them they have a short time to pay before gas or electricity service will be disconnected. Customers are told to pay by loading a Green Dot pre-paid debit card (or another type of prepaid card) and providing the card’s serial number to avoid a shutoff. Sometimes scammers will accept other forms of payment.
- CenterPoint Energy will NEVER ask you to pay via pre-paid debit cards (Green Dot cards).
- We will NOT call and threaten you with imminent service disconnection.
- You can learn more about the Green Dot scam at the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) website.
Power Outage Restoration Scam (Door-to-Door Electricity Scam)
This door-to-door scam occurs soon after severe weather causes a power outage in your home. The scammer knocks on your door and tricks you into thinking he or she is a representative of your local utility company. The scammer offers to restore your power for a fee, which must be paid immediately in cash. The imposter fraudulently takes your money (and doesn’t/cannot restore power).
- CenterPoint Energy does NOT accept cash payments (see info on payment options).
- We will NEVER charge you a reconnection fee after a weather-related disconnection.
- Our employees carry identification; if you’re suspicious, ask to see it!
- You can learn more about the weather outage power restoration scam at the FTC website.
Fake Home Inspection Scam
Scammers arrive at your home, pretending to be an energy company or reputable business. They offer you a free energy audit, efficiency inspection, or some other service. If you agree, the scammers enter your home to perform a dishonest or fraudulent inspection.
Next, the scammers either convince you to buy products or services that cannot accomplish what the scammers promise (e.g. a “solar blanket” for your attic will lower energy bills by 50 percent). In a variation, one “inspector” distracts you while the other steals valuables from your home.
- CenterPoint Energy employees ALWAYS carry identification. You may ask to see it!
- You may also contact us to verify that we’ve authorized employees to visit your home.
- You can learn more about the energy audit scam at the Better Business Bureau (BBB).
Note: Legitimate contractors may go door-to-door to help find new customers. However, if the alleged inspectors tell you it’s a one-time opportunity or that they can’t return at a later date, you should be skeptical. When in doubt, keep them out!
Heating/Cooling Replacement Scam
In this popular scam a heating/cooling repairperson lies, telling the victim his or her air conditioner, furnace or boiler needs repaired or replaced (when it doesn’t).
Victims have reported unnecessary red-tagging with scammers saying they have a cracked heat-exchanger or need a new capacitor. Sometimes the units being unnecessarily repaired or replaced are still under warranty, but the scamming repairperson doesn’t tell you.
- Only hire licensed and bonded HVAC technicians; use BBB.org for help finding and researching reputable contractors.
- Get a second (or third) opinion – especially if you’re unfamiliar with the company.
- Check your AC or furnace/boiler warranty status.
- The scam typically happens during the beginning of the heating or cooling season, typically during an unusually low-priced furnace or AC tune-up.
Switch Energy Company Scam
In the utility switch scam, the scammer offers you an opportunity to lower your electricity bills if you switch energy providers. He or she says they need additional info such as your existing energy provider account number, or even a copy/photo of your entire electricity bill, to verify your eligibility.
Next, the scammer may either a) switch your utility provider without your consent (possibly resulting in higher utility bills after an intro period), or b) use your personal info to steal your identity.
- If you want to shop around for energy services in your area, your state public utility commission (or the equivalent) should be able to direct you to safe resources for comparing providers.
- Your consent is necessary to switch your energy provider.
Note: If you are contacted by a telemarketer or door-to-door energy provider representative it isn’t necessarily a scam, as utility companies sometimes try to get new customers by offering lower intro rates. However, your consent is required to switch utility providers!
Federal Assistance for Utility Bills (Identity Theft Scam)
In the federal utility bill assistance scam, criminals reach out to you about a (fake) federal program that can help pay utility bills for qualifying individuals. The scammer asks you for sensitive information such as social security numbers. Once receiving your sensitive info, the scammer promises to get back in touch with you soon. Instead, the scammer uses the private information to steal your identity.
The utility bill federal assistance scam is carried out using various forms of communication, including phone, email, text messaging, social media, flyers, or door-to-door, possibly asking for your electric bill.
The Job Offer Scam (Work-from-Home Jobs Scam)
Scammers fraudulently pose as a utility company and make contact with victims over the internet, often through Google Hangouts™ and Gmail™. The scammers make appealing offers of “work from home jobs” with high pay and full benefits, sometimes even conducting multiple interviews for the (fake) job.
Once the “job” is offered, scammers send the victim a check via FedEx® or another express mail service, with instructions to deposit it for the purchase of office equipment. The scammers later change the instructions, telling the job-scam victim that the utility company needs the money back and it will purchase the equipment for the person. The scammers tell the victim to get the money from their bank, in cash, and make a deposit at a particular bank.
The scammer’s check will bounce (returned for insufficient funds) and the amount of the check will be debited from the victim’s bank account. If the victim has withdrawn the cash before the scammers check bounces, then the victim will be responsible for the value of the check. The checks have ranged in amounts from $5,800 to $12,000.
- CenterPoint Energy lists all available jobs on our careers’ website. Our official recruiters do not utilize Gmail™ or Google Hangouts™ to contact and interview interested candidates.
- Do not deposit any checks received from work-from-home-job scammers. If you have deposited a check, notify your bank right away and tell them that you may be a victim of a job-offer fraud scam.
- You can learn more on the FTC’s Job Scams page.
Email Phishing Scams & Malware
In these technology-based schemes, the scammers send you authentic-looking emails or text messages, pretending to be an energy service company.
- In an email phishing scam, the scammers trick you into giving them personal information such as your account number or credit card number.
- In a malware attack, a program is secretly installed on your computer or phone after you click a link within the fraudulent email or text. Malware can do a variety of harmful things, like stealing valuable info from your device and sending it to thieves.
You can learn more about internet fraud and electronic scams at FBI.gov.
SMShing Scams (Text-Message Phishing)
SMShing (pronounced smishing) occurs when scammers send a text message to the recipient, urging him or her to promptly take an action, such as paying an energy bill or verifying account activity (due to suspicious activity). If you click the link, it may either a) install malware onto your smartphone, or b) take you to authentic-looking webpage designed to trick you into disclosing sensitive info.
- Do NOT click the link.
- Delete the text message.
- Verify account balance in My Account
Delivery Fee Refund Scam
In this scam, imposters visit homes door to door, typically dressed in neon yellow shirts claiming to be from the utility offering a refund for delivery fees. They state they can cancel the delivery fee on your utility bill and give you $100 cash or a check which will be provided by their manager or “boss” later in the day. Some imposters have also claimed that this is a government program that removes power delivery fees. These scammers often pretend to be representatives of public utilities so they can steal your financial information or even your identity.
- There is no government program to remove or refund power delivery fees.
- CenterPoint employees or contractors will never give in-person refunds
- Our employees or contractors carry identification; if you’re suspicious, ask to see it or call the number on your bill or our website!
- Never give your personal information to anyone who comes to your door.
- Learn more about public utility scams.