Checking the identity of your meter reader or meter engineer can greatly reduce the chance of crime and fraud in your area.
Energy suppliers take fraud very seriously, and do all within their power to help protect their customers, but there is only so much they can do regarding your home or business building, the rest is up to you. Energy suppliers often have approaches in place with trained staff that are able to recognise fraud and help you handle it when you are concerned.
Below, we put together a handful of useful tips and examples of where you may feel compelled to check the identity of those visiting your home on behalf of your supplier, and how to handle it if you are unsure. You can find a quick checklist below to simplify the information given in this piece.
As an industry, customers should know to expect four main things from their energy supplier when it comes around to that mandatory time that they will need to send a meter reader or engineer to your property. These expectations are outlined below, with the help of Energy UK’s Fraud prevention page;
When a meter reader or smart meter installer visits your property, you can take a number of steps to confirm their identity, by…
- Checking for a visible identification, such as a badge or lanyard that will often come alongside the uniform of your supplier. Some companies have it as standard that staff provide this to you on first meeting.
- Calling your supplier on a phone number that you are already familiar with, if you are at all hesitant or concerned. This means using contacts that you have found to be secure in the past, for example, the number listed on their website.
- Requesting additional security; many suppliers give you the option to agree on a password (that is valid both in person and on phone calls) for additional security for you. As the terminology states, this is usually something that you should ask for rather than something that is given to each and every individual.
Your password should only be shared with those who need to know it, such as yourself and/or an elected partner. The company will only share this with those whose is relevant to, such as the caller you will meet on the phone. This means that you may be given this personal password when you call the company; Some companies even offer a free password protection card to be sent out to you, so that you are able to write the password down so you do not forget.
You can call the Priority Services of most organisations if you would like to change your password for any reason; they will ask you for the previous password and a new one. Your card will also have tips on what steps to take when someone calls to your property.
What happens when I call my supplier to confirm an identity?
When you call your energy supplier, they should then confirm your identity through a variety of security questions; You will know these answers because they have been set in advance, on opening your account with them. Because the energy suppliers are likely to give you important information on your account, it is mandatory for them to ensure that they are speaking to the right person first. The supplier will never ask for your account passwords or security codes related to bank accounts, payment cards or other financial property. Instead, account details will be disclosed to you as the account holder once your identity has been verified.
Another important way to avoid fraudulent meets is taking care when you receive an unexpected email from your supplier. Before taking these correspondents as truth, you should always confirm that this message is coming from the same source as your previous contacts. For example, your monthly bills or promotional emails will be sent from the same address, and likely hold a similar layout, such as a masthead with their logo on it and its positioning. If you do not recognise the layout of the email, or the address that you are being contacted from, you may want to contact the supplier individually to ensure that this is not fraud before handing over details or inviting staff into your property.
An email should never ask for your personal details, unless this has been previously arranged with the supplier for a valid reason. An email will only be addressed to the account holder or an individual nominated in advance, and should contain your reference number where appropriate. Your bank details should not be listed, even by your supplier, in an email or letter.
As stated above, handful of different suppliers follow varying protocol made to ensure the safety of their customers, although we found that a handful of these will overlap as the are found to be the most secure way to access this information safely. As an example, SSE released a customer statement outlining how their own trained staff may handle accessing your property, and the correct way for you to contact them with any questions or concerns. You have every right to contact your supplier if they are not SSE to ask them for this protocol at any time.
SSE shared that they tend to arrange their visits directly over the phone, meaning that any email or text correspondence is likely to be fraudulent. Alongside this, they follow the same guidelines mentioned above regarding company uniform and logo; Most of SSE’s representatives wear clothing and drive vehicles that are clearly marked with the company logo, alongside carrying an identification card that includes…
- Their full name
- Their colour photo
- The company trading name
Their representatives should show you this card automatically, meaning that you do not need to ask for it when they approach you. They claim that it is easy to confirm that these details are correct due to the name and photo of their staff member is larger than the rest of this identity card, in order to make it easier to read from a distance. Every time a member of staff leaves this company, they are expected to return their identification card which is then destroyed, meaning that previous staff members should not be able to gain access to your home after their employer has been terminated for any reason.
While contractors are not always treated with the same care, this company has similar guidelines to ensure that you are as safe as possible. When a contractor is working on behalf of the company, they will carry a similar identity card. The difference here is that this card will show an expiry date
A collection company sent to claim payments owed to your supplier is also counted as a contractor. Unlike most groups who may visit you on behalf of your supplier, it is likely that this company will ask for payment. The company in question that have been asked to work on behalf of your supplier should contact you in advance f their visit, either by writing or by phone, this means that you should always be expecting them on the day and are made aware that the representative is not from the company you might expect. They will also carry an identity card that is marked with their own employers company name; you are welcome to contact them if you are concerned, and your supplier should know the details, too, if you are not entirely convinced.
If a contracted collector is not able to receive the full payment that you are in debt of, or arrange a suitable repayment plan with you, they will then apply for a Warrant of Entry in accordance with the Rights of Entry (Gas & Electricity) Act 1954. This allows the company to access your home for the purposes of fitting a Pay As You Go meter, if it is safe and practical to do so in your home, or disconnect your supply in accordance to the terms made in your contract.
The warrant mentioned above gives the contractor the right to enter your premises even if you do not give them permission to do so, or if you are not at home. They will only do this as a last resort when other attempts to arrange payments have failed or been ignored long term.
Just like SSE, OVO Energy also produced guidelines for their customers covering what to expect when an OVO engineer visits their home, including frequently asked questions such as “How can I be sure that an engineer is really from OVO?”
Unlike SSE’s identification card, OVO requires a signature from their staff. These subtle differences can be the crucial point between safety and fraud.
How can I ensure that the engineer on my property is genuine?
Asked their job role; engineer, meter reader, contractor?
You should always know why someone wants to enter your home before you allow it.
Received a call letting you know that someone will attend a visit to your home?
Depending on your supplier, you may be contacted another way.
Contacted your energy supplier to ask how to confirm an engineer is working for them?
Checked for a branded vehicle and/or uniform?
Checked the engineer’s identification card?
Including name, picture and company title.
Been given a previously established password from your engineer?
Seen any relevant paperwork?
For example, a Warrant of Entry or information regarding the work they are doing.
Been informed of what work they will carry out in your home, and how long it will take?
An estimated time is fine, but they should always be able to give you a summary of their work.