Coned scams, also known as ESCO scams, have been happening more often. Here’s the lowdown on how it works. While the specific company may differ (Pacific Gas and Electric Company in California, Con Ed in New York, etc.), the scam is essentially a 3rd party company trying to switch you partially away from the main utility company.
Supply vs Delivery
The way it works in same markets is that a regulated provider, such as Con Edison, provides all the delivery. The delivery is the provision of electricity from source to you. A supplier, which can be Con Edison or another company, provides the supply of electricity.
That’s why on your Con Edison bill, there is a supply charge and a delivery charge. The delivery is usually quite regulated, as there is commonly a monopoly. It doesn’t make sense for a lot of companies to maintain multiple networks of wires and pipes to supply each home. The price for delivery is usually set by government commission, to ensure that the price is fair. Market pricing doesn’t work here since there’s a monopoly.
The supply of electricity can be from multiple sources and there is often a market for electricity, such as PJM. In some unregulated supply markets, there are many providers, known as ESCOs, who want to provide this electricity. They have their own contracts, agreements, prices, and fees.
Dangers of Switching
Why is switching so dangerous? Because most people don’t understand what the rates they quote include or don’t include. Sometimes the rates start low and escalate quickly. Sometimes the rates don’t include extra fees and delivery that add up. There are many horror stories of people who switch. Sticking with ConEd may not get you the best price always, but at least it’s a reasonable price.
The Coned Scam
Some energy supply companies will market you aggressively trying to get you to switch to their company for supply. But the less honest ones will even try to trick you into switching. They end up switching you over to another company without your knowledge which bills you about 3x as much as your regular bill. They like to target older people who don’t know any better so please inform your relatives or loved ones to be on alert.
Pretending to be Con Ed employees
These scammers pretend to be employees of Consolidated Edison. They will may things like they need to see your bill (to get your account information) or they will shut down your gas/power or that you owe money from a past due bill.
Their whole pitch depends on people trying not to be rude. They don’t pause for you to find out if you’re interested or not and they’ll just keep talking till you cut them off.
Saying They Just Need to See your Bill
The ConEd scammers are supposed to get your written consent to switch you over, but some of them will try to trick you into giving them your account number and then switch you over. Pursuing legal action against them to reverse it can be a lot of trouble, which they’re banking on (literally).
How to Handle ConEd Scammers
As soon as they identify themselves as ESCO scammers (if they say they’re from coned demand ID) tell them they’re trespassing and need to leave. Pull out your phone and follow them if they move on to your neighbor. The more annoying your building/block is, the less likely they are to come back.
IF you do want to go with an independent energy supplier, which I generally don’t recommend, make sure to ask the following questions and do extensive research.
Things to Ask
As you shop around, don’t hesitate to ask questions, and make sure you’re comfortable with how they’re answered—it’s your right.
Is the price fixed or variable?
If it’s fixed, is it guaranteed?
Does the price include taxes?
Terms and Conditions
What are the terms and conditions of the agreement?
Will these be provided in writing?
How long is the agreement?
Are there penalties for breaking the agreement?
Is a deposit required?
Can I change price options later on?
Is there automatic renewal on the agreement?
Are there additional fees not included in the price quote?
What are the office hours?
What is the complaint-handling process?
Are there toll-free numbers?