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Scam Alert

Beware of Utility Company Scams

As temperatures drop, watch out for these 3 seasonal hoaxes

Inspection Deception

Now is when utility company imposters or independent "energy auditors" tend to appear unannounced at your front door, offering a free inspection of your furnace and thermostat, or a free evaluation of your home's energy leakage. But unless your utility company has notified you in advance or you initiated a request for an audit or inspection, don't let them in.

Assume that unsolicited energy auditors are really salesmen or home improvement hucksters pitching unnecessary expensive products, such as a $4,000 "solar" blanket for the attic that in fact can't live up to its claimed ability to capture the sun's rays through roofing materials. Maybe that's why the Consumer Federation of America cited "free energy audits" as a burgeoning problem in its most recent top consumer complaints list.

Often, self-described inspectors are actually there for a quick burglary — especially if they arrive in pairs. One distracts you while the other scoops up valuables. Or they may be trying to collect your personal information for identity theft. Don't be fooled if inspectors sport official-looking badges (which can be printed from a computer) or wear uniforms (which can be rented or stolen). Unless you expect any energy-related experts, keep your door locked.

Sid Kirchheimer is the author of Scam-Proof Your Life, published by AARP Books.

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