Scammers are trying to exploit the cost of living crisis by targeting consumers whose energy supplier has collapsed, analysis by Which? found.
Former customers of failed suppliers, including Solarplicity, Future Energy and Northumbria Energy, have been singled out by fraudsters trying to exploit the confusion caused by the companies’ failures, the consumer group said.
Nearly 30 suppliers have collapsed over the past year as rising wholesale prices and capping energy prices have forced companies into bankruptcy.
The scammers posed as debt collection companies and used phishing emails containing consumer names and knowledge of their former supplier.
Who? said he was concerned that customer information had been mishandled or stolen as companies were dissolved and their data passed between power brokers, mailing houses, new suppliers and debt collectors.
In the first quarter of this year, Action Fraud figures obtained by the organization show that scams mentioning the largest energy suppliers had increased by 10% compared to the same period last year. January alone saw a 27% increase over last year.
Soaring energy bills appear to have encouraged scammers to pose as suppliers and encouraged victims to enter their bank details to request reimbursement due to miscalculation of their energy bill.
Britons seeking to lower their bills through renewable energy schemes have also been targeted – fraudsters have posed as legitimate government schemes to incentivize the use of insulation and heat pumps through online scams, cold calls or house calls.
Citizens Advice estimates that around 5 million people may have fallen victim to such scams, paying for services that never materialized.
Which ? Money editor Jenny Ross said: “As households continue to feel the pressure of rising energy costs, it may be all too easy to fall victim to sophisticated scams promising ways to reduce energy bills or even offer refunds due to a billing error.
“We advise all consumers to be wary of unsolicited emails, text messages or letters, especially those not addressed to you by name, which may request sensitive information or ask you to make a bank transfer. If in doubt, contact your energy provider directly using the contact information on their website.
The energy crisis has hit consumers with annual bills expected to reach almost £3,000 in October. The National Audit Office this week accused regulator Ofgem of creating a market “vulnerable to large-scale shocks”.