Energy Audit, Lawsuit and Phishing Tricksters Just Want Your Money

Energy audit ruse aims to get into your home to sell or steal: Internet Scambusters #541

Attracted by the potential to save money, victims are falling
for phone energy audit offers that are really disguised
attempts to sell you overpriced products or even steal from you.

We have the details of what to look out for in this week’s
Snippets issue, along with the lowdown on a bogus class action
lawsuit, which, again, you have to pay for.

And we’ve identified a couple of the latest phishing tricks
disguised as communications from government departments.

As always, we also recommend you check out the most popular
articles from our other sites during the past week:

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A Closer Look at a Few Myths About Stars: Few things are more obvious or mysterious than the stars, so it’s no surprise that these myths about stars are rampant in human culture.

Five Great Ways to Enjoy Spring and Summer Berries: Here are five of my favorite ways to eat my favorite berries in the spring and summer months.

Let’s get started…


Energy Audit, Lawsuit and Phishing Tricksters Just Want Your Money


The high cost of powering our homes with gas and electricity
has sparked an energy audit scam in which crooks use the lure
of cutting victims’ bills as a way of getting inside their
homes.

That’s the first new con trick in this week’s Snippets issue
— a roundup of the latest happenings in the world of
scamming. We also have details of a bogus class action suit
and some new types of phishing emails.

Energy Audit Scam

This is a simple trick that’s sweeping the country, though the
end game isn’t always the same.

A door-step solicitor, postal flyer, or telesales caller
offers a free or very low-cost home inspection to identify
ways of cutting your energy bills.

Sometimes, the tricksters claim to be from a utility company
or energy audit specialist firm; often they offer “guarantees”
of savings and even cash rewards.

Once inside victims’ homes they have a great excuse for
touring every room, opening up the possibility of theft.

But, most often, these tricksters are just sales people. In
recent instances, they use high-pressure techniques to sell
“solar blankets” for attics — at $4,000 a pop — or other
types of insulation.

If the victim pays, the work may or may not be done but it’s
always over-priced, under-par on quality, and usually done by
an unlicensed contractor.

Action: A home energy audit is a legitimate way of seeing if
you can cut your power bills.

Many state energy departments or power companies offer this
service free — but they usually don’t cold-call. You have to
call them.

You can often do an audit yourself, using tips from your
utility company.

A legitimate, qualified energy auditor will usually charge for
the service, which is fine if it’s genuine.

Beware of any type of unsolicited offer, check the
credentials, including business and contractor license, with
anyone you’re thinking of doing business with.

This includes those who claim to be specialists and actually
do charge a fee. Be skeptical of anyone who promises they can
save you money.

And if someone offers to reward you for allowing them to do
the audit, then it’s almost certainly a scam!

Finally, if you do find yourself with one of these rogues
inside your house, ask them to leave. If they won’t, call the
police.

Bogus Class Action Lawsuit

We read a lot these days about class action suits, in which a
group of disgruntled customers band together to sue an
organization over alleged faults, errors or wrongdoings.

Scammers have spotted a way to turn this to their advantage by
pretending they’re organizing a lawsuit and inviting you to
join in the action — for a fee.

The latest version comes as a mailer inviting recipients to
join a class action against a mortgage lender for unspecified
problems dating back to the real estate and foreclosure drama
of the past few years.

Victims are asked to pay more than $5,000 upfront for research
and legal costs.

It turns out there’s no such lawsuit and anyone who pays to
“join” will likely never hear from the organizers again. If
they do, they’re told the action has been abandoned.

Action: In most states, it’s illegal for lawsuit organizers to
charge upfront fees.

Don’t pay in advance for this sort of action. If the lawsuit
seems legit, check it out with your state Attorney General’s
office.

New Phishing Scams

To stay one step ahead of their victims and law enforcement,
scammers must constantly devise new ways of phishing — fooling
victims into giving up personal details about themselves.

One of their favorite tricks is to mimic legitimate
organizations, and among their latest tactics is a really
cheeky trick — posing as the very organization that tracks
their crime, IC3, or the Internet Crime Complaint Center.

The scam comes in the form of an email, purporting to be from
IC3, reporting a true story about the arrest of credit card
forgers.

It tells recipients they’re entitled to get a refund and asks
them to email their bank account details.

In addition to giving up their confidential info, victims may
also be asked to pay a fee for the handling of the refund.

Action: Any request for your bank account or other
confidential information is a red flag.

This particular scam uses the IC3 logo and has the subject
line: “We have mandated your payment.”

A logo on a message proves nothing, and legitimate government
agencies or banks never ask for your account details by email.

It also uses poor English, and refers to the office of a bank
in South Africa, implying that’s where the money will come
from. More red flags.

One more “official” phishing scam to be on the lookout for:
What appears to be an emailed receipt for a payment you’re
supposed to have recently made to Florida’s Department of
Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.

You don’t have to live in Florida to get one of these. One of
the Scambusters team who lives in another state got one and
there’ve even been reported in some African countries.

The message includes a bogus confirmation number and a
supposed tracking number — plus the inevitable link for you to
click if you have any questions.

Although the link shows the real FDHSMV address, clicking it
actually takes you to a hijacked server in Germany where,
again, you’ll be asked to provide personal information.

Action: Again, don’t trust a logo or other supposed identifier
for an organization. They mean nothing.

And don’t click links inside an email like this. If you have
reason to believe a message from any organization is legit,
look them up and contact them by phone directly.

That’s a wrap for this week’s issue.

Remember always to be on the alert for attempts to steal your
personal information and supposed organizations that offer to
give you or save you money — whether it’s a lawsuit, an energy
audit or anything else — where you have to pay them first.

That’s all for today — we’ll see you next week.