Help! Are "Free Light Bulbs" From Con Ed A Scam?

Reader Fiona wants to know if the people calling from “Con Ed” offering “free light bulbs” are running a scam.

Today my mother received a series of calls from someone claiming to be calling from Con Ed. After asking for someone who doesn’t exist (at least not in our family) they informed her that our apartment building was participating in a new Con Ed program to replace all old light bulbs with new energy saving light bulbs free of charge. It sounded way too good to be true so she told them she wasn’t sure about her availability and hung up. After checking the lobby, the internet and asking the doorman if he’d heard anything about this “program” she returned home to find two messages from the “Con Ed” employees telling her that they could completely work with her schedule and that they would call back later.

It all sounds very odd to me.

Well, Fiona, the program is real but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be wary of strangers who want to come to your house and give you free light bulbs. In the New York City area, there’s a program that aims to reduce summer power outages by helping people save electricity. The program pays subcontractors to go to eligible buildings and install energy efficient light bulbs. Having said that, we did see a report on WCBS about a subcontractor stealing jewelry while he was supposed to be installing the light bulbs.

“They’re terrific, they’re really good,” said George Burke as he described the new energy efficient light bulbs Con Edison offered for free, but Burke says he ended up paying for them with valuable jewelry.

Last month, two subcontractors came to Burke’s house to install the energy efficient light bulbs. While Burke filled out paperwork with one of them, the other went around the house changing light bulbs.

After having the new bulbs installed, Burke noticed a ten-karat diamond ring and a one-karat ruby garnet worth about $20,000 were gone.

“This right here is the dish where they were in,” pointed Burke. “So you can see how close the lamp was to the dish.”

That’s when he realized one of the subcontractors hired by Con Edison was the culprit.

A detective investigating the subcontractor recently contacted Burke.

According to the detective, Burke wasn’t the only victim. Several complaints, all of them from Staten Island had come in, and all of the victims had recently gotten their light bulbs replaced with one of the new energy saving kind.

So we guess the moral of this story is that there may be such a thing as a free light bulb, but you’d better keep an eye on the guy who installs it.

Con Ed Subcontractor Allegedly Stole From Homes [WCBS]

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.