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Finally, state regulators pursue one (of too many) "energy audit" phone scammers

Wake up and good morning. Last month I was barraged by calls to my cell phone (how did they get that number?) from some no-name business trying to get me to sign up for an energy audit of my home. The callers invoked the name of the local power company, as if the utility had given them its blessing (it did not), and wanted me to "Press 1" now to schedule an appointment. Right... And of course, when I called back the area code 727 number that had appeared on my cell phone, it just rang and went dead. Photo: AP

Now that might be the end of it, except the calls were incessant. And annoying. It's almost a rite of passage in Florida to go through these cycles of huckster solicitations. Things had improved for awhile when the state invoked the Do Not Call law, but those days seem to be fading fast. St. Petersburg Times reporter Ivan Penn, who writes the Consumers Edge advice column, warned only this past Saturday about the evils of these energy audit callers.

So I was delighted to see that state regulators -- namely the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services -- has filed suit against one of these bothersome businesses. The lawsuit was filed against Unlimited Energy Solutions Inc. of Seminole County, and nine individuals for violation of the Florida Telephone Solicitation Statute, following an investigation of numerous complaints received for potentially illegal sales calls. Read more here. And here's Penn's story in today's Times.

"Salespersons allegedly used automatic dialing machines programmed with prepaid cell phone numbers to disguise their identity, making it difficult to identify the callers," state regulators said. Yep. Been there. Heard that.

The lawsuit was filed Friday in Seminole County Court and the defendants were served Monday. So let's see if this turns into a benign rap on the knuckles with one of the "the firm neither confirmed nor denied wrongdoing" phrases or if these folks, if found guilty, get a more memorable punishment. Then maybe the other bazillion phone scamsters in Florida might take notice.

Been bugged by these types of calls? Contact the the state's "Consumer Assistance Call Center" at 1-800-HELP-FLA.

-- Robert Trigaux, Business Columnist, St. Petersburg Times