When temperatures drop, it often costs more to stay comfortable in your home—and scammers know that. They’ll try to use your worry to trick you into falling for their schemes, but if you know what to look out for, you can stay safe.
Below are examples the FTC says are common utility scams so, if you get a message like this, don’t fall for it:
- Scammers say you’re behind on your bill and, unless you pay right away by gift card or wiring money through companies like Western Union or MoneyGram, they’ll shut off your utility service.
- Scammers come to your door saying they need to repair or replace equipment, and that you have to pay on the spot.
- Scammers say you overpaid your bill, and they need to confirm personal information to process your refund.
Also don’t believe anyone who promises to save you big money—but only if you pay them. The FTC says: If you get contacted with a message like any of the above, report it your utility company and then report it to them at ReportFraud.ftc.gov.
A great way to be less worried about your energy bill—so you’ll be less likely to fall for a scammer—is to do what you can to make it smaller. Fortunately, there are some pretty simple steps you can take to help make that happen.
TDS’ own Green Associate Resource Group has a few tips:
- Slay energy vampires. Devices in your home that are always plugged in—especially those with those large, black blocks that are part of the plug—are always drawing power. Unplug them when they’re not being used or use a power strip where you can easily turn them off with a single flip of switch. The biggest energy vampires?
- Hair dryers, electric shavers, and curling irons
- Computer monitors
- Video game consoles, coffee makers, DVD players, and laptop chargers
- Switch to LEDs. If you haven’t already made the switch, there’s no time like the present. Changing to LEDs saves the average household about $225 a year (and the bulbs last up to 25% longer than traditional bulbs, too). Bonus tip: see if your energy utility offers discounted energy-saving goods on the cheap.
The FTC also recommends that you:
- Do a home energy audit. It’ll tell you how efficient your heating system is and where your home is wasting energy. Many utility companies offer free or low-cost energy assessments. Visit energysavers.gov for more resources.
- Seal air leaks around windows, doors, and places where pipes and wires come through walls. Check existing caulking and weatherstripping for gaps or cracks.
- Bring your insulation up to levels recommended by the U.S. Department of Energy.
- Lower your thermostat before you go to bed or head out for the day, or get a programmable thermostat to do it automatically.
- See if help is available. Check to see if you’re eligible for the Low Income Home Assistance Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).
Learn more at ftc.gov/SavingEnergy.