Scam involving the supply of electricity

There seems to be a new scam being perpetrated each week. We are already inundated, particularly during the spring and summer months, with bogus gas inspectors, sellers of unnecessary water filters or meters, fake charity collectors, pickpockets posing as signature collectors for petitions of one form or another, ATM scams…the list seems endless.

A scam currently prevalent in Málaga, a result of the liberalisation of the utility markets, relates to electricity suppliers.

Unscrupulous sub-contractors, working on a commission basis, may visit door to door or telephone to inform you that: you are being overcharged for your electricity and they would like to study your bill in order to propose a more advantageous tariff, or simply offer you an apparently more attractive tariff with another supplier.

The objective is to get hold of your personal details and enter you into a contract, with or without your knowledge. This contract can end up costing far more than your current contract as you may well get signed up for all sorts of extra maintenance costs. As the contracts are generally for a fixed period of one year, getting out of the contract in the interim period can be costly.

Although it is customary to actually sign a contract for such services, and such contracts signed outside normal business premises carry a seven day revocation period, many people are unaware of the hidden extras and it is not until bills are received that this becomes obvious.

It is also not unknown for unscrupulous sales people to ask you for a signature to acknowledge that they have visited you, that signature then being used to formalise a fraudulent contract with a new supplier. The first indication that this has happened will be when you receive your next utility bill.

As with so many scams, the unscrupulous often target the elderly or, in the case of bogus gas inspectors, foreigners unaware of the laws or system. The consumer organisation FACUA recommends distrust of any commercial enterprise arriving at you door without prior appointment or notification.

Many of the scammers have legitimate-looking identification, possibly also uniforms and can be very persuasive, even aggressive. If you want to avoid being caught out, the general rules are never give personal information to cold-callers and never, ever let them inside your property.