Emergency Medical Alert Scam

August 15, 2013 18:36 by Consumer Ed

Dear Consumer Ed:

I have been receiving automated phone calls saying that I qualify for a free emergency medical alert system. To accept, I'm instructed to press 1; to decline, press 2. When I hit "1" to accept I was asked to provide my bank account information. I was afraid it might be a scam so I hung up. But now I keep getting these calls, even though I have declined the offer numerous times and even asked to be removed from the contact list. What can I do?

Consumer Ed Says:

You did the right thing in refusing to provide your bank account information. A scam like the one you describe has been reported to be occurring around the country. Callers impersonate a company offering a free emergency medical alert system, but they're really just scammers trying to get you to provide your credit card or bank account information so they can take your money.

You should report such calls to the Federal Trade Commission ("FTC") by visiting ftc.gov or calling 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). You should also contact your phone company to request that calls from that number be blocked.

To avoid unwanted telemarketing calls, a lot of people choose to register their phone numbers with the National "Do Not Call" Registry (www.donotcall.gov). While this is a good idea, it will only keep your number out of the hands of legitimate telemarketers. Scammers tend not to honor that registry. However, being on the Do Not Call list can make it easier for you to spot a scam since you will know that any solicitation from a company that you do not have an existing business relationship with, and that is not a charitable or political organization, is not a reputable business.

Remember - free means you don't have to pay anything. So if someone calls and offers you something for free in exchange for your banking information, hang up the phone. 

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Can I get a grant or rebate for doing a home energy audit?

August 13, 2011 00:13 by Consumer Ed

Dear Consumer Ed:

I received a call from a company that said I could get a $3,000 federal grant if I had them do an energy audit of my home.  They then requested my social security number and bank account information so they could check my credit rating. I got suspicious and hung up. Do you think this was a scam? Are there really grants or rebates available for doing an energy audit of your home?

Consumer Ed says:

You were wise to be suspicious of the caller. Unsolicited calls or emails asking for your personal or financial information are usually attempts at identity theft.  There has also been a scam reported in Florida where con artists posing as utility workers have been going around neighborhoods and calling consumers offering free energy audits. To ensure you’re contacting the actual utility company, you should call the number on your power bill.

There are several legitimate programs that offer Georgia residents rebates or financial assistance with energy audits or energy-efficient home improvements. However, they generally require you to initiate contact with them, not vice versa.  Here are some programs that you may be able to take advantage of:

Weatherization Assistance Program - Low-income homeowners may be eligible for the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP), which provides weatherization services allowing income-eligible households to reduce their energy bills by making their homes more energy efficient.  For more information and to apply for Weatherization Assistance, visit www.gefa.org.

Free Online Energy Audit - Georgia Power offers a free online energy audit tool to help residential customers determine where the most energy is consumed in their homes and what they can do to lower their monthly bill.  Go to www.georgiapower.com to access this tool.

Free In-Home Energy Audit - Georgia Power also offers customers a free in-home energy audit. An Energy Expert will visit and visually inspect your home and help show you how much you can save on your energy bill. To schedule a free energy audit, call 1-800-524-2421 ext. 200, or visit www.georgiapower.com.

Zero-Interest Financing for Energy Improvements - The residential energy efficiency financing programs, which are funded through Georgia Environmental Finance Authority (GEFA) as a result of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, allow homeowners to apply for funding to complete a number of energy-efficiency improvement projects, and for the purchase of eligible ENERGY STAR appliances. Financing is available through Oglethorpe Power Corporation, Electric Cities of Georgia, Municipal Gas Authority of Georgia and Estes Heating & Air. Contact your electric and/or gas provider for more information on available energy-efficiency loan programs.

Georgia Power Rebates – Georgia Power customers may qualify for rebates of up to $2,200 on energy-efficient home improvements. To be eligible, you must get an energy assessment by a participating contractor (for a fee), and the improvements must be done by a qualified contractor participating in the Georgia Power Home Energy Improvement Program. Rebates are based on actual energy savings achieved. For more information, visit www.georgiapower.com.

Federal Income Tax Credits - As a homeowner, you may also qualify for federal income tax credits if you purchase certain energy-efficient products or renewable energy systems for your home during 2011. For more information on what products qualify, visit the U.S. Department of Energy’s website at www.energysavers.gov.

One final note:  If you hire a contractor to make home improvements, ask people you know for names of contractors they would recommend. You can also check their reputation with the Better Business Bureau (www.bbb.org).  Ask the contractor for his license number so you can verify that he is licensed with the Secretary of State’s Office. Make sure the contractor provides you with a detailed written contract before any work is begun, and don’t pay for work that is incomplete.

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Telemarketers Violating "No Call" Law

June 9, 2011 19:36 by Consumer Ed

Dear Consumer Ed: 

I received a call from an individual informing me I could request a checkup on my credit card that would provide secure assurance that my credit card was not at risk.  The caller then inquired about my credit card debt.  I told him I did not have any credit card debt, to which he replied, “We have nothing to offer you” and ended the conversation.  I received another call from an individual who asked if I was a homeowner.  Before answering, I asked for the company’s phone number, which the caller claimed not to have handy before ending the call.  I have been on the “Do Not Call List” for a long time and thought this was a Federal Law.  Why are these calls not blocked?

Consumer Ed says:

You are correct:  There is a federal Do Not Call Registry, which is maintained by the Federal Trade Commission.  If your number is on the “No Call” registry, a caller who contacts you is guilty of violating the law if:

  • The call was made at least 31 days after the date you registered your phone number;
  • The reason for the call was to solicit you to buy, rent or invest in property, goods or services.  Remember:  Calls from charities, political organizations and telephone surveyors are exempt from the “No Call" law;
  • You (or a member of your household) do not have a prior or current business or personal relationship with the company that is calling.  This means that if you entered into any kind of transaction (purchases, applications, inquiries, entering contests, etc.) with a company within the past 18 months, that company is not violating the No Call law if it calls you.  If the transaction was further back, or if you’ve never done business with the company, it may not contact you without your permission.

Both of the calls you received appear to justify a complaint.  To file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), call 888-382-1222 or visit donotcall.gov.  In each complaint include your name, address, and as much of the following information as you have:  the phone number that was called; the approximate date that number was registered; the date the call was made; the telephone number from which the telemarketer called; the name of the caller; the company’s name; and the type of service mentioned in the solicitation.

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