BBB: Be wary of free energy audit offers
HOUSTON The calls promise that everything is free, but consumer advocates say there may be something else going on and they urge folks to do their research before agreeing to anything. Pereshama Hiner does what she can to conserve energy in her home, so when she got a call saying her home could qualify over $3,000 in free government money for energy conservation, she agreed. "They asked me if they could come out today and I said yes, and they said they would take about 20 minutes to do an assessment of the home," Hiner said. Hiner says after agreeing to the home energy audit, she asked if there was a phone number she could call if she needed to cancel the appointment. "I became concerned because I wanted to see if there was a number for me to call back in case I needed to cancel; they told me no, they only had enough people for outbound calls and no incoming calls," Hiner said. After hanging up, Hiner says she tried to research the company. "When I looked online, I could not find anything," she said. It turns out the home energy audit never happened because no one showed up at Hiner's home. We found out Hiner is not the only person getting the calls. "The calls have been blanketing the Houston area, and we have gotten a lot of inquiries from Houstonians about them," said Monica Russo with the Houston Better Business Bureau. Russo says the BBB has not been able to identify the energy audit callers either. She adds consumers should be able to easily find information on any company before they agree to let the company in their homes. "A legitimate company will be happy to give you their contact information and let you get back with them so that you can do your research," Russo said. "In these cases people are usually hard pressed into making a decision right then and there during the call." We did call the number that popped up on Hiner's caller ID. During the energy audit call, it goes directly to a voice mailbox that is full, so there is no way to leave a message or cancel if you change your mind. The Better Business Bureau also found some consumers who actually agreed to the audits were then given sales pitches for things like radiant heat barriers or other products. The BBB says the prices were higher than what consumers could get in other places.