Officials Warn Residents of Possible Energy Scams

first_img Email Flathead Electric Cooperative and the Flathead County Sheriff’s Office are warning valley residents of a possible energy product scam and are looking for people who may have already been affected. Ross Holter, energy services supervisor at FEC, said it began with postcards inviting valley residents to a free dinner and product presentation. Holter attended the Oct. 18 dinner to see what the postcard-sender was selling, and said the presentation was unsettling.“This guy just spewed out all kinds of misinformation,” Holter said last week. “It was very deceptive and wrong. It was outright lies.”The salesman, identifying himself as Jeff Buckingham, told a crowd of about 25 to 30 people that he had products the electric company doesn’t want them to have because the company would lose money if people used them, Holter said. These products included an aluminum fabric to line insulation in the attic, a special showerhead and a power optimizer, which is supposed to keep excess energy from leaving the house like a dam but Holter said is largely ineffective.Holter noted that these products can save money in certain situations; for example, the aluminum liner can help lower cooling costs in warmer areas but studies have shown it does little in cold climates and can even cause mold or mildew problems in insulation. It’s a product local insulation companies won’t install, Holter said, and FEC won’t offer rebates for it because it doesn’t work. “If any of these things that this guy is promoting really worked, not only would we be endorsing them, we’d probably be offering rebates,” Holter said. After presenting the products, Holter said the salesman asked audience members to set up a time later that week for an installation. Holter noted that there is nothing illegal in selling products to people. However, local law enforcement got involved after one audience member reported that they paid $995 in cash for a product installation that never came. If the allegations are true, it qualifies as a theft, according to Detective Sgt. Pat Walsh with the Flathead County Sheriff’s Office. Walsh said he is investigating the incident, and he would like to find out if other valley residents may have had a similar experience. “I’m interested in identifying anyone else who may have paid for something they didn’t get,” Walsh said. While he is still trying to piece together exactly what happened and find the salesman, Walsh said a $995 theft is a misdemeanor. But if other people also paid money for a product that never came and their experiences raise the total to more than $1,500, it could result in a felony charge. A different dinner attendee post-dated a check for $2,800, Holter said, but they were able to cancel it before anyone cashed it. Walsh would like to talk to anyone who attended the dinner and purchased a product; he can be reached at the sheriff’s office at 758-5585.Holter noted that there have been similar product presentations this year. According to FEC spokesperson Wendy Ostrom Price, a 78-year-old local woman said she was promised a federal refund and a rebate from her electric company if she paid $2,800 for an “energy package” in March. However, preapproval of an insulation product is needed for a rebate, Ostrom Price said, and the product the woman bought did not qualify. A tight economy can breed these types of events, Holter said, and he expects more to happen in the Flathead. He and Walsh offered some tips for residents who might attend such an event.Research rebate claims: If a salesperson claims the power company or the government will give a rebate on a particular product, contact FEC or NorthWestern Energy to validate this information before signing a check, Holter said: “If it seems to good to be true, it probably is.”Research the product: Contact FEC or a local insulation company to ensure a product will do what the salesperson says it will, Holter advised. Walsh noted that potential buyers should go online to read product reviews, making sure to read more than what’s on the company’s website. Call the sheriff’s office: Holter advised valley residents to notify law enforcement if they receive a mailer or postcard for this type of event. “Don’t give them the time of day,” Holter said. The Flathead County Sheriff’s Office can be reached at 758-5585.Call your power company: If someone wants to save money on their energy bills, Holter advised them to call either FEC or NorthWestern Energy for an energy audit and for information on money-saving programs offered by both companies. FEC can be reached 751-4483; NorthWestern Energy can be reached at 888-467-2669. Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup. Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.last_img read more

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