A number of energy-related scams have been floating around in recent months.
But how can you spot if something is an energy scam, and what should you do if you think it is?
Here’s what you should know.
What are the current energy scams? How to spot them
People have reported receiving a fake email pretending to be from Ofgem, the UK’s energy regulator.
According to Action Fraud: ‘The reported scam emails claim that the recipient is due an energy rebate payment as part of a government scheme and provides links for the recipient to follow to apply for the rebate.
‘The links in the emails lead to malicious websites designed to steal personal and financial information.’
It notes that email subject lines for the scam include ‘Claim your bill rebate now’ – but also flags a typo telling readers to ‘apply for an energy bill rebate before September 2020’.
Any email of this type isn’t genuine.
Firstly, remember that all Ofgem email addresses end in @ofgem.gov.uk.
Don’t look at the name of the sender, hover over their name or click the ‘info’ or ‘show details’ tab to uncover the actual email address responsible for sending the message.
Secondly, the £400 discount isn’t even from Ofgem. It’s from the government, and will be automatically taken off your upcoming energy bills in most cases, via your energy supplier.
Any text, call or communication supposedly from Ofgem asking you to give or input personal details is NOT the real deal.
Ofgem confirms as much on its website, explicitly stating: ‘[We] would never sell you energy, ask for personal information or come to your property.’
You can ignore contact saying it is from Ofgem, or hang up the phone, and call the real Ofgem on 0808 223 1133 yourself, or visit ofgem.gov.uk to find out if you are genuinely being contacted.
£400 energy rebate scam
If you get a text, call, email or any communication regarding ‘claiming’ or ‘applying’ for the government’s £400 Energy Bills Support Scheme, you can be sure it’s a scam.
One example of what fake message might look like is: ‘GOVUK: You are eligible for a discounted energy bill under the Energy Bills Support Scheme. You can apply here.’
It’s quietly convincing, as of course many will be in need of the discount this winter.
But for the majority of us, the UK government won’t get in touch about the £400 at all.
It will be applied to energy bills automatically over the next six months, via your energy supplier.
Crucially you do not need to apply for it, nor visit a website or provide any details to get it. You’ll simply find the money has been taken off your energy bills when you see them.
The only people who will ever be contacted about the scheme are those who pay for energy via traditional prepayment meters.
Gov.uk explains: ‘[These customers] will be provided with Energy Bill discount vouchers from the first week of each month, issued via SMS text, email or post, using the customer’s registered contact details’ – for use at their usual top-up point, i.e. PayPoint or Post Office.
Traditional prepayment meter customers also don’t need to apply for it or make a claim.
Those on traditional prepayment meters don’t need to provide details or bank information, either – so again you can be sure any correspondence asking you to input this is a scam.
If you have any concerns about the £400 energy rebate, or if you haven’t noticed it come off your bill automatically (or via the vouchers) by the end of October, you should contact your energy supplier yourself, using details listed on their official website.
Energy efficiency scam
Finally, a number of ‘energy efficiency’ scams have also been doing the rounds.
Business energy comparison brand Bionic explains: ‘Many popular energy-saving scams include calls about double-glazed windows, conserving heating and energy suppliers.’
Someone may try to contact you by phone, text, email or via another avenue, talking about your current provider, perhaps saying they are inefficient or even unsafe to use.
They may want you to ‘switch providers’, perhaps claiming it will help you or save money – but what the scammer really wants is for you to give them your personal details or banking information.
Keep in mind this kind of message or call isn’t likely to be genuine.
If you’re ever unsure, ignore the communication or hang up on the call, and contact your energy supplier directly (using contact details from their official website, not through a scam text or email).
If someone is genuinely trying to contact you, for any reason, they’ll be able to let you know.
What to do if you spot a scam
If you think you’re being scammed, ignore the message or hang up the call.
Don’t click any links or use any contact details they’ve provided you, either, as these websites could be dangerous.
If someone tries to pressure, push or intimidate you into doing something, such as giving over your bank details on the phone, this strongly suggests that they are trying to scam you.
Then report the scam to Action Fraud, even if you didn’t fall for it.
Action Fraud is the National Fraud & Cyber Crime Reporting Centre, and can be reached online or by calling 0300 123 2040.
You can also report a scam to Citizen’s Advice.
Use their online form for reporting scams or call 0808 223 1133, at which point they will pass the information provided to Trading Standards – as they don’t investigate scams themselves.
If you’ve received a scam text or phone call, most UK mobile users can forward it to 7726, says Ofcom. Hopefully, this will help get the number investigated or blocked.
Scam emails can be reported to email@example.com, which reaches the National Cyber Security Centre. Scam post through your letterbox can be reported to Royal Mail’s fraud team via a dedicated form.
If you realise you’ve fallen for a scam, don’t feel too embarrassed to report it.
If money has been taken from you, or you’ve given someone access to your bank details, call your bank straight away. They’ll be able to help you secure your account.
There’s also plenty of advice on the Citizen’s Advice website for getting your money back after being scammed. There’s a chance you could recoup what you’ve lost, so don’t delay.
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