Last year county residents received unsolicited offers that appeared to be from local power companies and promised lower utility bills and government rebates.
The offers were fraudulent.
The scam uncovered by Pinellas County’s Department of Justice and Consumer Services recently received national attention in a report by the North American Consumer Protection Investigators and highlights the need for consumer awareness and caution.
Douglas Templeton, chief investigator at the department, warns that citizens in the county should be alert for offers of free energy audits, significant utility savings and federal government rebates.
“Always be alert when approached by unsolicited salesmen,” Templeton said. "Offers of large energy savings or government rebates are danger signs.” Adding: “If it’s too good to be true, it usually is.”
Consumers should never sign agreements or contracts without documentation and checking to make sure the service provider is licensed through the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board. Contractors offering solar energy improvements are required to have specific licensure for this service in Florida.
Pinellas County offers these tips to protect you from consumer fraud:
- Home solicitors are required to display permits issued by the Pinellas County Clerk’s office.
- Incredible savings or rebates are a signal to use caution.
- Ask for written rebate information for any product or service.
- Be wary of unsolicited sales agents.
- Scare tactics are often used to get your approval for unnecessary products or services.
- Check for licensure through the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board.
- Claims of a government connection to any product are a warning sign.
For tips about making smarter decisions in the marketplace, assistance with a consumer issue or to check the complaint history of a business, call Pinellas County’s Department of Justice & Consumer Services at 727-464-6200 or visit www.pinellascounty.org/consumer.