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3 On Your Side: Home Energy Audit Scam

jim-donovan-web Jim Donovan
Jim Donovan is a 13-time Emmy Award-winning consumer reporter w...
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By Jim Donovan

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — If you get an offer for a free or low cost energy audit, you may want to hold off. 3 On Your Side Consumer Reporter Jim Donovan explains what you need to know before letting that auditor into your home.

Debbie Katt is like many homeowners, interested in cutting back on electric bills and making her home more energy efficient. So when someone appeared at her door offering a free home energy audit, she agreed. She says, “He presented himself as if he were an official of some sort.”

But after checking her attic, windows and doors, the so-called “auditor” told her that she needed to buy a $4,000 solar blanket for the attic. That’s when she realized the “auditor” was really a salesperson.

Katt nearly fell victim to what the Consumer Federation of America calls an emerging “energy audit scam.” Susan Grant, of the Consumer Federation, says, “The scammers send consumers postcards or make phone calls offering them free energy audits that will save them hundreds of dollars a month on their utility bills.”

The auditors often imply they’re with a government agency or utility company, but according to Grant, “Their real intent is to get into consumers homes and sell them things that actually don’t save them any money at all.”

In fact, you could end up with a big mess on your hands. At one home, investigators say the owner fell for the scam and paid a company to install insulation. Turns out the contractor was unlicensed and never came back to finish the job. Consumer Protection Investigator Jason Ohman says, “We’ve seen cases where work has not been completed fully or where people were not really benefitting from any of the savings they were told.”

Many utility companies do offer legitimate free energy audits, but they most likely won’t cold call or solicit you — you would need to call your gas or electric company to set it up.

For more advice on how to deal with a door-to-door salesperson and information on your right to dispute an in-home sale, visit: www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/products/pro03.shtm

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