From Scott Carlberg

“Slamming” is an illegal tactic by some unscrupulous telecom services. What happens is that customers signed up with their regular cell or wireline service get switched to an independent cell or wire retailer, totally without the customer’s knowledge or approval. Customers can easily end up with surprisingly high prices and little to protect them.

Phone slamming has been adapted to electric service in some places.

“Cramming” is a relative of slamming. Cramming is any unauthorized charge on your electric bill, which is illegal.

“In deregulated electricity markets, Alternative Retail Electric Suppliers (ARES) compete against each other to offer customers the most appealing prices and contract terms, in order to attract new customers and/or keep their existing customers,” said the Wall Street Journal.

Ohio, Texas, Maryland, New York, Illinois, and Connecticut were specifically mentioned in the WSJ story. The story also says that targets of scammers are often the elderly and minority populations.

Note that the Carolinas have no retail electric option that could allow a scammer to profit in the two states. The market is regulated, for the most part, by public utility commissions.

Common sense preventive steps apply to electric scams, most notable that if something seems to good to be true, it is. Advice has been to stick with companies you know (and do not take the word of anyone that they work for a certain company).

  • Check the Better Business Bureau.
  • Trust your instincts.
  • Don’t sign anything until you read and verify everything.

I have also never known one utility person who does business door-to-door or by phone.

CBS News, while this is an older report, did a good job of introducing the issue.