From the Gloucester Daily Times:
Close call for resident in energy scam
By Ray LamontStaff Writer
Gloucester police have put the kibosh to an apparent scam attempt involving the city’s new electricity service partnership.
A Riverside Avenue resident told police last week that solicitors representing a company called SFE Energy, out of Buffalo, New York, approached her home, and asked her about her home energy service.
She explained to them that she had signed on with a deal offered through the city’s new community electricity aggregation program, which launched last fall.
Under the program, a New York-based consulting firm, Green Energy LP, acts as a broker to find energy suppliers for the city, with the goal of helping residents save money on their bills and conserve energy in the process. The firm secured an agreement between the city and Direct Energy LLP, which took effect Dec. 1. Residents were automatically enrolled for a basic service program if they did not opt out.
So last week, the solicitors told the woman that the city’s agreement was expiring, and that she could and should switch her service to SFE, which was offering lower rates and a $75 rebate on the SFE program. She signed on. But there was a problem — none of what the solicitors told her was true.
The woman called police and the office of Mayor Sefatia Romeo Theken, all of whom assured her that thecity’s three-year energy deal with Direct Energy is not expiring.
“We investigated it,” said interim police Chief John McCarthy on Thursday. “We talked to the parent company (SFE) and they terminated service with their subcontractor (who had hired the solicitors working in Gloucester that day).”
McCarthy emphasized that SFE Energy was “very cooperative” and acted quickly upon hearing of the report. He also said that officers quickly confirmed there were no energy service solicitors who had obtained permits from police, as required, at the time.
“One contract (for service) that was signed was voided,” he added, with the contract likely being that of the resident who called.
Police logs of the incident indicated that officers who responded to the resident’s call and spoke to her were unable to locate the solicitors, and no criminal charges have been filed.
But McCarthy said the incident should serve as a reminder to all residents when it comes to dealing with solicitors.
“Anytime anyone is out soliciting, they need to have approval from the police,” he said, “and people should call to verify if someone (who approaches them) has that approval.”
Staff writer Ray Lamont can be reached at 978675-2705, or vie email at rlamont@gloucestertimes. com.