The other day my doorbell rang. I initially assumed it was a solicitor, but the gentleman started with a very innocuous story about people being overcharged for electricity in the neighborhood and explained that he was gathering information. He just asked to verify a couple of details from my bill. Immediately my suspicions were raised. I told him I wasn’t aware of any such issues, he claimed something was sent in the mail. I asked to see his ID, he showed me an ID that said “ESCO” but was pretty generic. He wasn’t wearing a uniform but he did have a clipboard and something bright yellow like a handkerchief which I suspect was meant to invoke a utility worker. I just told him I was busy and to come back tomorrow.

Years ago a friend of mine in Bay Ridge fell prey to a utility scam where they switched her energy provider without her permission. Of course the new rates were exorbitant, and it took her months to get it switched back. I believe it was the same set up, someone came to her door and claimed to be on official utility company business. She showed them her bill and they used that info to switch her account.

Of course after this gentleman went away I searched and found that his “company” ESCO is just a generic term, heightening my suspicions. Somehow I doubt he will return but it would certainly be an interesting conversation if he does.

In recent months, I have been approached by a couple of legitimate seeming salespeople from ESCOs. On the one hand, they come with a somewhat seductive story about energy deregulation, and how millions of Americans are unaware that they are overpaying for electricity. When pressed however, they don’t seem to be able to guarantee long-term savings. I’ve heard that they might offer a given rate initially but after that the rate can jump and they have you contractually locked in. They also appear to be set up as multilevel marketing businesses which I find to be a red flag.

The NYS Public Service Commission provides a list of ESCOs in New York State and the relative complaint rate of each (on a scale of 1-3 dots, less dots equal fewer complaints). Here is the LINK.