How To Spot IDT As They Snake Up Manhattan's Spine

A reader on Manhattan’s Upper West Side spotted an IDT energy salesman going door-to-door this week. The tipster nabbed a copy of IDT’s enrollment forms so you know what to look for when the scammy salesmen try to wrangle you into signing up for services that can triple the cost of your energy bill. The IDT representative said he was winding his way north to the tip of Manhattan with plans to reach 125th Street in time for Christmas.

Our tipster reports:

I’m an avid reader of The Consumerist so I knew exactly what to do when “the utility company” rang up to my apartment this week. I ran down to the front door where I found an IDT salesman. The guy was African American, somewhere between 30 and 40 with a really nice silk polka dot scarf. He was also wearing a large ID card that said in bold red letters “I Am Not A Utility Company Employee.” The ID card was attached to a green necklace holder thing that said “Buy Greed.” Odd, right? Anyway, I refused to let the guy in even though he promised to save me 7% on my energy bill (HA!), but I told him that I’d take his enrollment forms to look over. He said he wasn’t supposed to give them to me, but then he did. Scans attached.

The guy said he was working his way up Manhattan and that he hoped to reach 110th street by Saturday and 125th Street by next week. After that, he plans to keep on going. He said he manages to cover three blocks a day, depending on the buildings. Hope that helps!

Good to see that IDT salesmen are no longer claiming to be ConEd representatives. That isn’t stopping the New York City Consumer Protection Board and the Department of Consumer Affairs from http://consumermediallc.files.wordpress.com/2007/12/idt1-thumb.jpg?w=463&h=609

The fine print on the back, which surprisingly doesn’t contain a mandatory binding arbitration clause:

http://consumermediallc.files.wordpress.com/2007/12/idt_fine_print-thumb.jpg?w=463&h=606

The “I Wasn’t Duped” declaration (Available in English only. Sorry other-language speakers!)

http://consumermediallc.files.wordpress.com/2007/12/idt_waiver-thumb.jpg?w=463&h=606
New York State and City Consumer Protection Agencies Call For Improved Marketing Standards for ESCOs [Department of Consumer Affairs]
PREVIOUSLY: Door To Door Energy Resellers Fail To Deliver Promised Savings

Comments

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  1. Mike_ says:

    Similar scammers have been making rounds in my neighborhood. They’ve been here twice since October. Our condos are close together, and there are lots of seniors to prey on. Fertile ground. I hope none of my neighbors fell for it.

    I discovered after their last visit that my community has a vending ordinance. It requires peddlers to get a license, and it says they must obey “no soliciting” signs. I checked with the Clerk — they don’t have a license. And even if they did, there’s a “no soliciting” sign conspicuously posted at the entrance to our neighborhood.

    Next time they show up, they’re getting a ticket for vending without a license. I’ve heard it’s expensive.

  2. StevieD says:

    @Mike_:

    Yep it sure is. I love keeping the dude busy at my counter while Uncle Leo dispatches one of his finest young officers to take care of the problem.

  3. marsneedsrabbits says:

    What is an ESCO, and are they necessarily always bad?
    How do you have options as to where to buy your energy?
    Mine comes from the wall & I pay the municipal electric company.
    I’ve never heard of options before.

  4. uricmu says:

    Yea, some background for us non-NYC’ers would help.

    Also, since when is IDT an energy company?
    I could have sworn they were selling international calling cards.

  5. clevershark says:

    Do they still run Net2Phone?

    Anyway, I’m also surprised to hear they’re branching into energy too…

  6. I started reading the consumerist back around the time (I think) Ben applied for a job there, so I remember a little about the scams but not too much. I looked at the Wikipedia page for them, which I suspect was mostly written by an IDT employee. Except for one sentence, it reads like an advertisement. Someone want to fix this?

    [en.wikipedia.org]

  7. barco says:

    It doesn’t seem too surprising that they’re starting into the energy market.. IDT is one of these companies that exists solely to subject it’s unnecessary cancer on the people of deregulated markets in the hopes they can raise their stock price. It’s basically an Enron-wannabe.

    I imagine if you have any problems the Con Ed guys aren’t going to be thrilled to show up at your place.

  8. uricmu says:

    @rhesuspieces00:
    I’m fairly impressed at how bad that article is.

    Under its NewArk headquarters most of the discussion is about the Jewishness of the place. to quote: ” Yarmulkes and black hats are a common sight”. Not sure if I like that in the context of a scammy company.

  9. timmus says:

    Quite frankly the Wikipedia page on IDT sucks… the focus is almost entirely on the calling cards.

  10. benh57 says:

    No-one is going to explain what this is all about? Can we get some links other than a fluffy wikipedia piece?
    Seems like a competing utility would be a good thing.

    I’ve never even heard of IDT.

    Hate these stories where they assume we know all about this company and how bad it is.. this isn’t really a national thing, so i’ve no idea.

  11. TechnoDestructo says:

    @benh57:

    “Hate these stories where they assume we know all about this company and how bad it is.. this isn’t really a national thing, so i’ve no idea.”

    This site has covered them extensively. I don’t think they should have to recap every single time.

  12. elisa says:

    @TechnoDestructo: I am a long-time reader of this site, but not everyone is. And if you’re not a New Yorker (as I am not), I didn’t really pay attention before, and am not sure what these companies are. Just be reading the scanned docs, why is IDT bad? the docs look fine upon first glance. Is it their business practices or what?

    yes, more context please.
    And I think it’s been a while since Consumerist covered IDT…the last I remember, they were trying to get hired undercover, but it was kinda a bust.

  13. Amelie says:

    Explaination:
    “IDT Energy allows customers to purchase electricity without paying sales tax, often saving customers up to 10 percent on their energy bill. But because their rate is variable, the savings are not guaranteed and sometimes can lead to higher consumer costs.

    Energy resellers, as they are called, have emerged prominently in recent years as states begin to deregulate their utilities. Since their business depends on convincing customers to join a somewhat complicated service, industry experts said that aggressive and even unethical sales tactics are often used to obtain new clients.

    Ben Popken, the editor of the consumer protection Web site consumerist.com, said he has received several complaints about IDT Energy and similar companies. Some have targeted non-English speaking residents, saying they had to sign with IDT as their energy provider or be fined.

    “IDT is a crooked pack of shysters and are hardly unique in their scam,” Popken wrote in an e-mail. “Other resellers employing door-to-door salespeople using underhanded tactics include Direct Energy and U.S. Energy.”

    Since January, IDT Energy has had 35 complaints logged against it with the Public Service Commission, which tracks complaints about the reseller companies. That number was the second only to Energy Midwest LLC, which had 54 complaints.

    IDT Energy officials did not respond to requests for comment. But the company told NBC news last month that all salesmen are properly trained and wear identification badges.

    “This is not a scam, but it is something new to people,” a spokesman said in a statement. “If you don’t want to participate, you can say ‘no, thank you,’ and shut the door.”
    [www.queenstribune.com]

  14. frankadelic says:

    [consumerist.com]

    IDT is the reason I found the Consumerist! I live in NYC and I had one come to my door claiming to be an employee of ConEd. I sensed something fishy about him since he kept asking to see my electric bill so I told him to fuck off and did some searching for his company.

    So the main issue is that their door-to-door salesmen have been lying about who they are and, in general, using any means necessary (including threats) to get people to sign up. If you did sign up you might actually save some money but there’s an equal chance you’ll be charged more.

  15. pyloff says:

    I live in Michigan and had a guy for a similar company come to my door. He promised to save me some percentage on my gas bill if I signed up for 3 years. I asked him what his company’s angle was and he acted all flustered. His reply was “I’m just the salesman, I don’t know how they make money.”

    Needless to say I said no thanks.

    He had a clip board with a previously filled out form, I’m wondering if someone in my area had signed up, or that was part of his scam. He mentioned that he had been signing “everyone else” up.

  16. AD8BC says:

    Wow, IDT into Energy?

    I used to have great calling cards from them to call home with when I was working in Europe.

  17. sir_eccles says:

    I think I dodged a bullet on this one.

    Prospect Heights Brooklyn, last Friday. I was working from home and got a knock on my door. I was greeted by a relatively well dressed guy who started to talk quickly about sales tax on power supplies and how he wanted to check my bills and make sure I was getting the right discount I was entitled to. I’m pretty sure he claimed to be from ConEd. He had an ID badge but to be honest I didn’t look too closely at it. Shame on me! Luckily I dismissed him but I did hear him hammering on every door in the building.

  18. n/a says:

    I laugh at these forms, god how sad some companies are.

  19. Frantz says:

    This is not a comment, and probably should not appear in the website. It is merely a suggestion. I read Gizmodo on a daily basis, and there is one problem I have with it. Constantly there are articles using acronyms or abbreviations that I don’t have a clue as to what they mean or stand for. This “IDT” article is a good example of this. I have no idea what IDT stands for. And, it’s very annoying to have to “guess-it-out.” The point is, it is just not good journalism to assume that every reader knows what all the hi-tech abbreviations are. The first time such a term or string of letters is used in an article, it should be spelled out in full. Thank you.

  20. elisa says:

    @zouxou: Thanks for the explanation!

  21. Froggmann says:

    ID10T Error Does Not Compute…

  22. gman863 says:

    In Houston and other parts of Texas, you can’t just call “the electric company” to set up service; state law requires you choose from dozens of providers as part of deregulation.

    While this (in theory, anyway) should lower prices, Houston has some of the highest electricity rates in the nation (.12-.16/kWh, depending on the provider and plan).

    While most providers offer a month-to-month plan where rates can vary, almost all push 1-2 year plans where a customer locks in a guaranteed rate and faces a hefty cancellation fee if they want to switch companies or plans before their contract is up. In order to get consumers to lock into these plans, they offer token gifts such as a $50 bill credit for signing a two year contract.

    If locking in your electric rate for two years sounds like a deal, think again. With my current electric company (Amigo) on a no contract (month to month) plan, I pay 11.8 cents per kWh 10 months out of the year; it jumps to around 14 cents two months during the summer due to increased demand. By contrast, many of the contract plans from Reliant and TXU have a rate of up to 15 cents per kWh all year long. Based on an average use of 1,000 kWh/month, the 15 cent guaranteed rate plan actually costs over $300 more per year!

    Texans who are in deregulated electricity markets can compare rates and plans at http://www.powertochoose.org.
    Those who don’t are throwing money away.

  23. tanne100 says:

    I work for a non-profit community service agency in New York City. The IDT problem has become so prevelant among our clients that I’ve sent an agency-wide memo to staff informing them of what to look for “supply charge” on the bills of clients who feel their electricity charges are too high and call IDT. Most of the clients who I have helped cancel IDT are non-english speaking and illiterate. Most have no recollection of ever being solicited. Some have reported being called on the phone by someone who already has their conedison account number and uses a line like “we see that your energy bill is unusually high and would like to help you save money.” IDT does not require any proof of identity to open or close an account. Always when I close an account I’m told it will take two billing cycles to finalize. So IDT is guarunteed at least 3 months of revenue even if the consumer cancels the his account immediately upon receiving the first bill! Why can’t cancellations take affect right away? It seems like conedison must be loosing money by sharing money with these ESCOs. Why aren’t they fighting IDTs shady practices or at least informing their customers? Are they getting some kind of kick back?

  24. phildill says:

    I had one of these guys at my door 15 minutes ago. I was not thinking and let him see my ConEd bill and write down my info, but at least smart enough not to sign. Of course he protested, and the more he did the more I was convinced it was a scam. But even though I didn’t sign, can they still get me? Or are they at least reputable enough to not forge my signature?
    (Washington Heights, NYC)

  25. rondav says:

    I recently had USEnergy rep at my door. Wanted to see my gas bill? WTF. Thanfully, I am a regular reader of consumerist and was aware of this scam. After politely declining his offer, I googled US Energy and found that their are reports of them ripping off people in Chicago,(higher utility bills than previous provider and forging signatures). Guess they are moving on into Indaina. Thanks Consumerist.

  26. shhhush says:

    Nope, my guy blatantly told me he was from Con Ed a couple of weeks ago in West Harlem in NYC. Straight out lie. He said he wanted to see my bill because I might be overcharged, so sure, what’s the harm in showing my bill? When he looked at my bill, he said “yep, WE’VE been sending you this notice here that you can save money” without letting me get a good look at the “notice”.

    I didn’t sign a thing and clearly told him that I was not interested, but I guess all they need is my account number. A couple of weeks later, sure enough, I’m signed up for IDT. Con artists.

  27. snappaloosa says:

    An IDT guy was making the rounds in my building yesterday, and I had words with him– there are a lot of elderly and/or non-english speaking people in my bldg, and it is clearly posted that solicitation is not allowed. He left very quickly once I raised my voice. (Jackson Heights.)

  28. acts_as_comment says:

    Hey snappaloosa.

    I’m also in Jackson Heights (Queens), near Northern Blvd. An IDT guy came by today. Two came, actually. The first one (Asian) was nervous and fishy, didn’t look or act professional, and sounded like he had no idea what he was talking about. The second guy came by about 20 minutes later and explained that he had just trained the previous guy yesterday.

    He wanted to see my bill, and told me that ConEd has been calling me over the past few weeks trying to tell me about an offer to save money (they never called, nor mailed). He said that there’s a note about IDT on the back of my electric bill, and that he will show it to me if I bring the bill.

    I asked him why IDT doesn’t do this by phone, online or mail, and he said he doesn’t know. He also didn’t have a business card, and told me that he’s only going to be in the area for about an hour, and won’t be coming back for 4-6 months.

    Anyway, he never saw my bill and I doubt will be returning to my house anytime soon, and there’s nothing about IDT on any of my energy bills.

  29. shhhush says:

    Sigh. Well, I successfully canceled their service and blocked my Con Ed account. Its been a few weeks, and now I’m getting a few calls a day from a number that won’t leave a message. I googled it, and lo and behold, the number is linked to IDT energy. 518-687-6720.

  30. OctaviaPulcher says:

    Thanks for the article. Totally helpful. An IDT guy just left my apartment
    (Thompson and Broome), and when I googled “Con Ed IDT” your article came up.
    I just cancelled the service.

  31. Tracey68 says:

    An IDT salesman buzzed my apartment at noon and when I answered the intercom said, “I’m here from IDT Energy to check to see if you have paid your taxes on your gas usage” as if he was affiliated with Keyspan now called National Grid. After I let him have it and told him to piss off, I googled IDT as well and came across this page. I am so thankful for this info and plan to file a complaint with the Atty. General’s Office (212-416-8000) and the Public Utilities Commission of NY (888-697-7728). These people are predators who are misrepresenting themselves and could cause real harm. The guy that came to my door was extremely rude and when I called IDT itself they were not much better. I think of the older people in my neighborhood (Ft. Hamilton, Brooklyn) too and those that don’t speak English and I don’t want them to experience this.