FOX19 Investigates: Energy Audit Scams - Cincinnati News, FOX19-WXIX TV

FOX19 Investigates: Energy Audit Scams

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(FOX19) -

About this time of year, when the weather gets cold enough that you're forced to turn-on the heat, most homeowners begin to think about how they can save money on their utility bills.

Enter the latest scam to take advantage of your good intentions: A hard core salesperson pretending to be with a government agency or utility company who offers to come inside your house to perform a free energy audit.

Debbie Katt admits she was duped.

"He presented himself as if he were an official of some sort," she said.

After just a quick check of the attic, windows, and doors, the so-called "auditor" turned-on the hard sell. He told Debbie she needed to buy a "$4,000 solar blanket for the attic," she said.

She was just one victim of what the Consumer Federation of America calls an "emerging energy audit scam."

"I was mad that he misguided us and I was made he took all our time like that," Debbie said.

Susan Grant, of the Consumer Federation, says these "home energy auditors" really only have one thing in mind.

"Their real intent is to get into consumers' homes and sell them things that actually don't save them any money at all," she said.

Shoddy, substandard work can also result. Investigators say one homeowner fell for a free energy audit scam and paid a company to put in insulation. But it turns out the contractor was unlicensed and never even returned to finish the job.

"We've seen cases where work has not been completed fully or where people were not really benefiting from any of the savings they were told," said consumer protection investigator, Jason Ohman.

Phone solicitations for free home energy audits are among the fastest growing "Do Not Call List" complaints around the country.

Debbie said no to the sales pitch she got. But she warns the person presenting the pitch can be really persistent.

"The formula is, these people get in your house and once they're in your house it's hard to get them out of the house," she said.

Many utility companies do offer legitimate free energy audits. But they probably won't cold call you or just show-up at your door. Most of the time, they want you to contact them to make an appointment for one of their workers to come by your home.

One of those programs in the Tri-State is funded by Duke Energy and offered through People Working Cooperatively. The group will weatherize a home for some low income residents.

To find out more about the program, Ohio and Indiana residents may call (513) 351-7921. Kentucky residents may call (859) 331-1991. You may also visit the group's website: www.PWCHomeRepairs.org

Here's a look at PWC's brochure on their income guidelines and winter weatherization program:

In addition, if you are physically and financially able to weatherize your home on your own, we found a PowerPoint presentation that may help guide you on how best to do it.

Additional helpful links:

BPI

RESNET

Efficiency First

Greater Cincinnati Energy Alliance

Cincinnati Energy Solutions

The Greater Cincinnati Energy Alliance

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