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Attorney General Warns Residents About Alternative Energy Scams

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Illinois' attorney general was out warning South Side residents about the unscrupulous practices of some alternative energy companies that scam people into signing up with them.

Attorney General Lisa Madigan told residents of the Woodlawn community that there's a lot of confusion about alternative energy companies and how some of them will sometimes switch consumers' electricity or natural gas company without consumers realizing it, WBBM Newsradio's Bernie Tafoya reports.

She says, "You always have to be skeptical when somebody's out there…knocking on your door and claiming that they are going to reduce your rates."

Madigan suggests hanging up on or not opening your door to people from alternative energy supply companies or anyone you don't know.  The Attorney General's office suggest you do your own research to determine if you'd save money or not by switching energy suppliers.

 The attorney general says sometimes the sales rep will offer consumers a $50 gift card but that the fact remains, that alternative energy company will more than make up for that $50 by having the consumer as a customer.

Theresa Walton of the Grove Parc Tenants' Association agrees says, "W have to say no. If these folks be aggressive with you, you got to be aggressive with them and close your door."

South Sider Trounia Hill says she refuses efforts to get her to switch energy suppliers because she had a friend who did that and wound up with much higher bills.

Woodlawn resident Pamela High says representatives of alternative energy companies frequently ring her doorbell but she says she tells them she's "not interested".

In the main, Attorney General Madigan says, utilities like ComEd and People's Gas have lower rates than the alternative suppliers. She says that was the finding of an Illinois Commerce Commission report.

Karen Rhode is property manager for POAH, Preservation of Affordable Housing, which operates 348 units in the Woodlawn community. She says sometimes residents will wonder why their utility bills have gone up and think it might be something having to do with their building. Rhode says she tells those residents to go back and check their electricity bills to see if they are with an alternative energy supplier or something else.

To compare utility rates and alternative supplier prices online, visit Plug In Illinois for electricity prices, and the Illinois Commerce Commission for natural gas prices.

WBBM Newsradio has emailed and left a voicemail with the president of the Illinois Competitive Energy Association for a comment.

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