When choosing your fuel oil or propane gas company — take a step back and ask yourself, could this company that’s offering “the lowest price” be in fact an unscrupulous thief like the 9 companies & 44 employees arrested and charged in a sting operation in New York City just recently?
Don’t become a victim to these crooked fuel companies. It’s not isolated to New York City!
How do these “fly-by-night” discount oil companies steal from unsuspecting consumers? Unfortunately – these guys learn all the tricks since you can’t “see” what you’re getting when a fuel oil or propane delivery is being made.
Catching the Crooks!
The City of New York’s Department of Investigation uncovered fuel oil companies stealing over $18 million from consumers by “shorting” each delivery, often by up to 40% in some cases over what consumers were billed for. “Shorting” customers is the #1 way these crooked companies rob their unsuspecting customers.
These cold hearted discount fuel oil companies are all over, not just limited to NYC. We’ve seen many over the years all over this region as well, heard stories from their employees and fuel tank truck repair shops. Not very tricky and most consumers would never realize they’ve been robbed.
More times than not – the #1 thing these dealers have in common – “We’re here to save you money” or “We’ll Beat Any Price”. Often to acheive this they simply pull a scam only to take your money while making you think you’re getting “a deal”.
“OIL STEALING 101” – Some of the “tricks” these fuel oil companies can pull include:
- Diversion valve that sends some of your fuel oil back to their tanker after going through the meter. This could be piped almost anyplace but has to be after the meter.
- Use a magnet to hold the air eliminator valve open, sucking air from either a divertor pipe or an empty compartment, meaning you’re paying for AIR going through the meter.
- Non-electronic, old fashion “mechanical” meters are the mainstay of the thief oil man – they can easily pump oil on your ticket before making your delivery and you won’t know the difference.
- The old mechanical meter can simply be “spun forward” using a cordless drill.
- They blend in WASTE OIL purchased for a fraction of regular, clean heating oil after it’s been picked up from automotive repair / oil change centers. Common trick these fly-by-nights pull every day.
This waste oil is often purchased by the bad guys for pennies per gallon, blended with their home heating oil and sold to consumers for full price. Just a 15% blend can save this unscrupulous fuel seller hundreds of dollars per day, all coming from consumers pockets. This sludge residue & waste oil doesn’t burn as efficiently, may contain toxic ingredients and can damage heating systems.
Fuel Oil Buying Protection Tips:
- Buy from a long standing, trusted heating oil / propane dealer like Combined Energy Services.
- Avoid any company that advertises “we’re the cheapest guaranteed”. To sell below the buying power of larger, established companies – more often than not they have to cut corners or steal.
- Only buy fuel from energy companies that use “electronic meter registers”. These meters make sure that someone didn’t get some of your fuel before they got to your house. In addition – ask to see the “seals” on the meter to make sure not tampered with like below. **Our electronic meters are certified by the municipal authorities once per year and all fittings are sealed. We’re happy to show you our electronic meter registers and seals at any delivery. Without electronic meter registers, you’re relying on the honor system of the person running that truck or their crooked company owner.
- Only buy from energy companies that use verifiable GPS tracking for each delivery to ensure you received that delivery. At CES we’re proud of our technology that allows us to track our trucks within 3 feet, tell you the time of day arrived, when started pumping, how many gallons exactly and what time the delivery was completed. We’re happy to provide our customers this data at any time since we have no question you received your complete delivery.
- If in doubt – measure / “stick” your fuel tank before and after your fuel delivery and use our conversion charts to make sure you got what you paid for.
- We would say WATCH the delivery being made, check the meter, but since these guys know the tricks better than you do, it’s pretty much impossible. They could be plumbed to steal with piping, rigged meter, diversion valves, air eliminator – the NYC sting even mentioned the driver asked customers to look at the meter to verify they were starting at zero. These guys are faster than you!
- Did we mention don’t fall for the companies advertising, “We’ll Beat Any Price”?!
- PREBUY & BUDGET PAYMENT PROGRAMS: BEWARE! While fuel dealers might all seem to be the same and their ads might be big and flashy — you only want to entrust your money with a reputable, established fuel dealer that is financially stable. There have been fuel dealers big and small that have taken customers money before the heating season only to use as their cash flow to pay for their mismanaged business / house of cards.
Financial instability leads to using YOUR prepaid money as their bank. Be very, very careful before you give one penny to these fuel companies. Unfortuntaly, there are NO PROTECTIONS in place in NY, PA or PA that require these dealers to place YOUR money into escrow or to be bonded.
What can you do?
You have to use common sense, go visit the company personally and ask yourself – do I trust these guys with my money and will they actually deliver on their promise this winter. All too often they run out of money and vanish along with your payments.
At Combined Energy Services – we’ve been delivering fuel oil, propane gas, engine fuels & kerosene since 1968. You can rest assurred that you get every gallon of fuel you pay for as thousands of customers around the tri-state region have trusted us for almost 50 years. To learn more – complete the form below for a free, no obligation price quote or information on our services.