A reader (and commenter) writes:
I realize you're probably sick to death of hearing about PFC scams, but this might amuse you anyway: I just got a phone call from a heavily-accented call-center voice purporting to be part of an energy-saving campaign by my electricity provider, Hydro-Quebec. They promised to send me a gadget which I would plug into any outlet and which would reduce my electricity consumption 30-40%.
When I asked how it worked, they claimed it contained "three special capacitors" and that it reduced some sort of ill-defined stray currents in my wires, and that it would reduce what was read on my electricity meter by the above 30-40%. Initially they gave the impression they were going to just send it to me, which I would have gleefully accepted so that I could dissect it and demonstrate its non-function. But it transpired that they were actually offering me a "great deal" and a "once in a lifetime offer" - yes, those are the words they used - of 50% off on its $400 price.
Once it was clear I wasn't going to get a piece of hardware for skewering, I suddenly found I had better things to do. I called Hydro-Quebec and they know there are people doing this, they had a security department number to hand (which referred me to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Office, which isn't open), but I was kind of surprised to get it at my home number.
But it bears re-re-re-repeating, here and elsewhere, because people are still selling these things (and removing all doubt in the comments of relevant blog posts...), and innocent people are still buying them. The more frequently this message is repeated, the more of a public service it does:
Magic power savers that're somehow meant to substantially reduce your household (or small business) electricity bill by hazily-described means involving capacitors, power factor or even stranger alleged technology are, without exception, scams. Power factor is a real thing and so is power factor correction, but household and small-business electricity consumers are almost never billed by power factor - spinning-disc electricity meters can't even measure it - and magic one-size-fits-all power-factor-correcting gizmoes don't actually even do what they're supposed to. The components inside these things aren't necessarily even connected. So even if you were billed by power factor, these gadgets would not improve it.
I have, to date, not had the pleasure of some guy with an Indian accent trying to sell me a magic power saver over the phone. Indian dudes ringing the doorbell and trying to get me to change my electricity supplier, yes; phone solicitations for power savers, no.
(The door-to-door guys are probably having a pretty bad time. I presume someone's making out like a bandit hiring Indian kids for a "working holiday" in beautiful Australia, then leaving the unfortunate workers stuck in yet another of those godforsaken semi-scammish door-to-door sales jobs that only pay by commission and have all sorts of outrageous requirements designed to soak up what money the poor bastards do manage to make. The door-to-door electricity guys, here in Australia where the power industry is still well enough regulated that there are no real "scam" providers as far as I know, are kind of like the Kirby vacuum or Cutco knife salespeople, selling a legitimate, if overpriced, product in an unpleasant way. They are, at least, not selling white-van loudspeakers, or fake health insurance to grandmas.)
My household has, however, been enjoying the attentions of another breed of Indian-accent phone-scammers. These guys, invariably identifiable thanks to the distinctive autodialer pause when you pick up the phone, were calling us a couple of times a week, though I think they've been quiet for a little while now. We may have finally persuaded them to stop, or perhaps they got busted. Or, more plausibly, they've submerged and departed for a while to avoid being busted.
Aaaaanyway, these guys usually say they're from Microsoft or something, and tell you there's something terribly wrong with your computer, and you need to go to their Web site and install some malware to fix the problem.
Anne (my Anne, not the Anne at the top of this post) has frequently asked these callers why they do not seek honest employment. The next time I pick up a call from them, I think I'll pretend to be racist.
"Is there, do you know, a single honest man anywhere in India? Clearly the British need to return and take you naughty little children firmly in hand once again. You silly little dusky monkeys, bless your souls, simply cannot grasp the white man's honour, can you? It's really not your fault; you simply cannot tell right from wrong. We blame ourselves, you know. It was foolish of us to trust you, with your tiny, adorable brains, to govern yourselves."
Just wasting a telephone scammer's time is small potatoes. We must aim, instead, to induce incoherent rage.