BOSTON (CBS) – This is a reminder to check your electric bill carefully.
There’s an easy way for companies to make changes to your bill without your permission. And it usually starts with a knock at the door.
It happened to Francoise Giguel.
“They say ‘We are working for an energy company. Are you happy with your electricity bill?'” she told WBZ-TV.
When two women showed up on Giguel’s doorstep she thought they were working for the city of Somerville. They weren’t.
“Stupid me, I go get my bill and I show them the bill,” she said.
One month later she found out her electricity supplier had been switched without her permission to a company named Direct Energy.
“This was fraud to use my name,” Giguel told us.
When she demanded that Direct Energy provide proof that she had signed up with the company, Direct Energy played her a recording of a man agreeing to change electric suppliers.
That’s when Giguel explained to the person on the other end of the phone that she’s a woman and that recording was a fake.
All it takes is that verbal or written agreement plus your account number for an electric supplier to be switched.
In Francoise’s case, the agreement was fraudulent and the account number was obtained when she showed the Direct Energy salesperson her bill.
In a statement Direct Energy told WBZ, “After learning of this matter, we conducted an internal investigation and the agent in question is no longer representing Direct Energy. We have resolved this situation with the necessary regulatory agencies and apologize to Ms. Giguel for any inconvenience this may have caused.”
But this isn’t an isolated incident.
The Department of Public Utilities has investigated more than 300 complaints in the past two years related to unauthorized changes. Not all of these cases turned out to be fraud.
“Once they’re asking you for your electric bill that should be a red flag,” explained Mike Durand, a spokesperson for Eversource.
“The main protection that people have is don’t give out your information until you’re ready to do business with that company,” said Durand.
There are dozens of third party electricity suppliers customers can choose from for either a better rate or to go green.
(To compare rates for yourself click here.)
The name of your electric supplier is clearly printed on your bill, so be sure to check it every month.
It’s something Giguel will not overlook again.
“I never looked at that tiny little thing before. Now I know that it’s there,” she said.
Many times these third party energy suppliers don’t make it clear who they are working for when they call or show up at your home.
They are not working with the electric company or with your city or town.
Be sure to ask for ID, get the company’s name, and don’t show them your bill unless you want to sign up.