Solicitors possibly posing as representatives from local energy companies have concerned several residents in Rockland and Westchester counties who say they have been badgered with requests to give away personal account information.
Consolidated Edison, the largest energy provider in the area, warning customers to be on the lookout for impostors showing up for meter readings without proper identification. The company warned anyone with concerns to call authorities.
When Patch surveyed readers last week about energy representatives visiting their homes and asking to see their bills, the response was overwhelming.
Several said representatives from Direct Energy, a gas and electric company operating in at least eight states, tried to pressure them into handing over their bills filled with personal information. Many said these solicitors weren't clear about whom they worked for and that they returned on several occasions.
Although Direct Energy is one of more than 40 gas and electric companies authorized to service Westchester and Rockland residents, the persistent requests for account information concerned several Patch readers who posted their complaints on our Facebook pages.
"Twice in Sleepy (Hollow) and they are aggressive and do not like to take not interested as an answer," someone under the Facebook account Lois Kyle posted. "Finally just closed the door in their face."
Others said the solicitor had not only been visited their home, but that they had visited family members as well.
"They've been through Tarrytown a few years ago," posted someone under the Facebook account Rick Reimundez. "I sent them packing from my house, but they also tried at my parents and my in-laws'. Ultimately wouldn't leave until I got involved and threatened to call the police. Very aggressive."
We haven't spoken with any local people who agreed to switch their services to the company or agreed to hand over their bills, but there are several complaints on Direct Energy's own Facebook page. Folks there said door-to-door solicitors sold them on a plan with either poor customer service or inconsistent rates. Others requested that the company stop sending sales representatives to their homes.
There are also complaints about the company posted on customer service websites like the Better Business Bureau.
Many Westchester communities, including Harrison, have local ordinances outlawing door-to-door solicitation unless a permit is granted. There have been no local arrests of Direct Energy company representatives reported to date, but one of our Facebook users said she had a representative knock on her door recently.
Direct Energy operates in Connecticut, Michigan, Florida, Maryland, North Carolina, Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania in addition to New York State. Patch sites in several other regions have reported similar complaints from readers about door-to-door solicitors asking to see utility bills.
Claire Monaghan, a Direct Energy spokesperson, told that door-to-door visiting is the company's chosen sales strategy because it has been successful with one-on-one conversations.
"Many people don't understand that they have a choice when it comes to utilities and that's what we want to explain on these visits," she said.
The spokeswoman added that she would follow-up on the complaints.
"We work with a number of third-party vendors throughout the country and I am very concerned to hear that we have customers who feel our representatives have been pushy," Monaghan told Patch. "We have a policy where all our people are properly ID'd and they should tell you they represent Direct Energy."
Third-party vendors are often used as a marketing tool for companies looking to contact possible customers. In these cases, though, the people doing the door-to-door soliciting are often limited in their direct connection to the actual company.
If these solicitors don't respond to requests to leave or are aggressive, residents are urged to call police.
White Lake Local Editor Brooke Meier contributed to this report.