“Updated July 2, 2013
More scams from Travel Union, this one is for an Energy Rebate Program.
Hawaii homeowners are reporting receiving checks from ENERGY REBATE PROGRAM and lists the bank as Travel Union in Scottsdale Arizona.
[Update] We have been getting calls from solar companies saying that their customers are also receiving these.
These checks, pictured below, are presented as part of an “energy rebate program” and claimed to be sponsored by the “Federal and State Government” and working directly with Hawaiian Electric.
First red flag was the name Travel Union, on the check. You may remember Travel Union from their travel voucher scams last year where they falsely used names like American Airlines to make victims believe they were receiving FREE travel vouchers. These scams had many variations from Bait and Switch offers to Phishing scams. People trying to redeem the vouchers were told they were no good , many had already given out personal information.
BOSS went undercover and called this company using the local number listed on the check as 808-206-7734.
The person who answered from the call center said they were located in Arizona, and that I was pre-qualified to receive that money and I just had to answer a few questions. These questions included if I owned my home, what my credit score and income was and other personal information. When I balked at the questions and asked him to verify this wasn’t a scam, I was told to go to their website http://www.gogreenenergyrebates.com and to call him back if I want “money in my pocket”.
This was red flag 2 as the website is very general and does not give any of the detailed information they claim will help prove they are legit.
I did call back and was asked to make an appointment so they could come out and perform and energy assessment. I was told I should have my energy bill ready. When I asked who exactly was coming she told me to check the website for a list of the companies they use. The website has no such information. I asked her to clarify who they were and what this was, and she said they are working directly with our energy company and the government. I asked specifically, “so you are working with Hawaiian Electric?” and she replied “That is correct.” [I will be posting this recorded call ]
I called to cancel the appointment telling her that I was uncomfortable that they wouldn’t tell me who was coming to my home. She said that the information was readily available on the website. When I told her that the websites was vague and did not contain any of this information or anything at all that says who they are and what they are doing, she said she that she had no other information and told to just send people to the website.
Hawaii Energy who does do the rebates, issued the following statement which says, “We would like to clarify that this mailing is neither approved nor endorsed by Hawaii Energy. Residents are encouraged to use caution when responding to unsolicited offers such as this. Official communication from Hawaii Energy will always include the Hawaii Energy logo.”
US Department of Energy, this is not how these rebates work, that they do not offer them directly to taxpayers in this way and tell you to avoid companies sending checks and claiming to be working with the Government.
On a personal note, I am amazed this company is still around. Despite being reported to the FBI, international news coverage, BBB reports, and consumer complaints from many big organizations this company has somehow still been allowed to continue these scams.
The only way to stop companies like this is to be an informed consumer and REPORT the scam immediately. The FBI and FTC is overwhelmed with reports and act on the ones with the most reports so
Department of Energy on Fraud and how to report it
The Department of Energy is strongly committed to effective program oversight, including allegations of fraud. The Department takes such allegations seriously and is committed to keeping the public informed about fraudulent practices.
A growing number of companies provide energy efficiency services. While the vast majority operates in full compliance with the law, fraudulent companies and scams involving home energy products have been reported.
To report suspected fraud, waste, or abuse, including scams involving home energy efficiency services, please contact the Department of Energy’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) Hotline:
- Call: 1-800-541-1625 or 202-586-4073
- E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Fax: 202-586-4902
- Write: U.S. Department of Energy
Attn: Office of Inspector General Hotline
1000 Independence Avenue, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20585
- For more information, visit the Inspector General’s Hotline Web site
Please provide as much information as possible. You may remain anonymous. If you provide contact information, the OIG may contact you for more information.
Tips to Avoid Becoming a Victim of Fraud:
- Beware of phone calls from people claiming to represent the United States Government. Few, if any, branches of the Federal Government would contact you in this manner.
- Beware of offers of Government grants available for a fee. As a research and development organization, the Department of Energy does not often offer grants directly to taxpayers.
- Fraudulent callers may also ask you to send money in exchange for grant information. The Federal Government does not charge application or service fees for grants or grant information. This type of activity is commonly referred to advance fee fraud.
- Beware of a caller that claims to be endorsed by the Department of Energy. The Department of Energy does not “endorse” any provider of goods or services.
- When in doubt, ask for written verification of any items being offered.
- Never provide financial information, payment, or personally identifiable information (such as a social security number or date of birth) to an unverified caller. If you have already provided personal information to the perpetrators of such a scam, you should contact your banking institution for assistance in protecting yourself from identity theft. In addition, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has set up an Identify Theft Web site which provides detailed information to help avoid identity theft and learn what to do if your identity is stolen.
- If you are suspicious of a phone call or product offer, ask for more information by mail, a mailing address, and phone number. Review information carefully before committing or sending any payments.
Other SCAM reports involving TRAVEL UNION from BBB, Fodors etc: