In the last few months, I’ve talked with people and have seen the scams they’ve fallen for. It’s not about them being bad people trying to pull a fast one, but that they are told something, and being trusting honest people, they assume others are trusting honest people too. Unfortunately this is not always the case.
While talking with a neighbour, a solicitor for “Just Energy” came up to the two of us. The lady I was chatting with is a senior and this rather sketchy looking fellow deadlined straight at her like a shark eyeballing a guppy. He was not happy when I stepped forward to say “NO” to him, knowing full well that what he was there for, was to separate a senior from her money.
I demanded he provide his business license as supplied by the town office, as required by local bylaws for both selling and soliciting. He flipped through a binder, without actually looking very hard at the papers, so I knew full well he didn’t have one. I gave him a choice. Leave town, or I call the police. Well he took off, but not before I got his description and told the 911 operator what he was doing. Yes, they are that level of vile.
I checked with the town office, and sure enough, neither he nor his boss nor co-workers had gotten any licenses. I was very sure to let the nice officer who called me back know this. He literally ran the fellow and his boss and others out of town for failing to follow local bylaws.
Why is this important? Well one can look up the scam at http://deerfielddriveottawa.wordpress.com/2010/08/31/just-beware-of-the-just-energy-door-to-door-scam-video/ or even just do a websearch for “just energy scam” and there are dozens of examples of the business practices these thieves work under.
The long and short is that they use what’s known as a “baffle ‘em with baloney” approach in their sales. They claim to not be selling anything, but in very short order they manage to get people’s personal information, and switch their energy provider (or technically the billing company), with promises of huge savings and low rates.
What they don’t mention is that their rates are higher in the long run, than the more legitimate established companies as listed by the Alberta government website. Suffice to say “Just Energy” is definitively not on that list. They don’t mention an extra “mere two cent fee” on top of the eight cents/kilowatt hour they promote. Nor that their billing structure is locked in for five years with absolutely massive penalty charges should you decide to drop them. There are companies that do the same with your gas bill.
The long and short of it is simple. If someone comes to your door, touting that they’re from an energy company and that they absolutely have to see your energy bills or get in to see your meter (only Atco does the checking of meters) or otherwise get inside your house to get your personal information, it’s a scam. Don’t let them in and if they try to bully you, call the police. Immediately. These scammers will bend over backwards to mess with people.
And a hint. They love small towns like Coronation, Veteran, Consort, etcetera. Their victims of choice are the elderly (easy to confuse with new fangled information) and the young (desperate to make their limited funds last through the month). Younger people are most at risk, as they often rent, and as such may not be in the same place in five years. This is where those huge fees come in to both move or to end the contract.
While not specifically illegal, their actions are highly unethical. And remember, in Alberta, you do have the right of “buyers remorse”. www.servicealberta.ca/pdf/tipsheets/Electricity_and_Natural_Gas_Contracts.pdf is a tipsheet that points out that you have 10 days from the time the marketer gets a signed copy, to cancel with no fees or penalties.
In short, by the time you read this, you’ll need to call right away if you want out of such a contract with your credit history intact. Good luck people. You’re going to need it.