Waterford residents warned about solicitors from alternative energy suppliers

WATERFORD, N.Y. – Police have charged five people in connection to allegedly scheming residents on energy services in Waterford.

Waterford's Public Safety Commissioner says on Monday an employee of Family Energy applied for a solicitor's permit which would allow them to solicit in the Town of Waterford for new customers or to offer energy services as an alternative National Grid.

According to authorities, the application was sent to the Office of the Public Safety Commissioner for review. During this step, the office found that the New York State Public Service Commission had received 93 customer complaints against Family Energy in 2012. In 2011, there were 40 complaints.

According to the office, the complaints stated the company was misleading the customers through their marketing. They also stated that the sales representatives allegedly misrepresented their identities.

Residents who have chosen to switch to Family Energy say they were asked to give the company their current energy bill in order to change the supplier. When the company had the bill with the account number, the numbers were allegedly used by the representative to change the resident's supplier without their knowledge or permission.

According to the office, this is an illegal practice frequently known as “slamming.” Some residents were charged a $250 fee to change energy suppliers without the customer's knowledge.

According to police, The Office of the Public Safety Commissioner denied the solicitor's permit for the Town of Waterford. 

On Tuesday, the Police Department received a report of a woman demanding to see a National Grid bill of a resident on Clifton Street.  As officers responded to the area, the woman plus three others were questioned.  None of the suspects, who claimed to be employees of Family Energy, Inc., had a valid driver's license.  The suspect's van was towed and two individuals were released.

Karrel Willis, 19, and Shaunvay Vaughn, 19, both of Buffalo, were then charged with soliciting without a permit.  Both were issued appearance tickets and will be back in town court on October 17. 

The next day, police received another phone call from the State Street area about solicitors asking residents if they received $50 rebates.  After police investigated, they found the individuals were employees of IDT Energy and they were soliciting for alternative energy sources.

Hakin Shabazz, 30, Musa Ibn Abdurrahman, 22, and Kajuan Thomas, 23, all of Albany, were charged with soliciting without a permit.

Police say they search IDT Energy and Family Energy, Inc., and found both companies had numerous complaints.

Residents of the Town and Village of Waterford are being reminded that anyone who goes door-to-door to solicit a product or service must have a permit.

Police also remind residents to never produce current energy bills unless you will commit to signing with the company.  Also, if you feel pressured by a solicitor, ask them to leave and say you will discuss the matter with a family member.  There have been times when a person has signed with an alternative energy supplier and they find they are locked in a contract for 5 years.  Elderly people are typically targeted. Anyone who believes they are a victim of “slamming” should contact the Town of Waterford Police Department at 518-237-3341. 

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