If it’s not a scam you’re being offered, chances are high that even if the offer is legit, it’s predatory.

The Maine Office of the Public Advocate recently warned residents who signed up to be customers of North American Power. The company offered fixed-rate contracts for their electricity, but once the term expires, the rates jump.

The Office of the Public Advocate says the rates expire soon ”“ if they haven’t already ”“ and customers should tell the company they want to be switched to the standard offer rate, which is always a fixed rate that changes just once a year, on March 1, and is set in conjunction with the Maine Public Utilities Commission.

If customers’ contracts have already expired and they’re now paying a variable rate, the Office of the Public Advocate says they do not need to wait. Call North American Power to be switched to the standard offer immediately. If customers don’t do this, they will likely end up paying hundreds of dollars more than they should this winter.

While this is not an illegal scam, it certainly seems like a predatory offer ”“ where a desirable, fixed rate is offered upfront, and then jacked up after a promotional period. In this case, customers have even reported not getting the notice in the mail that their contract is expiring. Public Advocate Tim Schneider said last winter, some variable rates went as high as 25 cents per kWh ”“ nearly four times the standard offer.

Companies should not be able to get away with this type of “deal,” particularly with a regulated industry, like the electricity supply business here in Maine.

Many people sign up for offers like this ”“ whether it’s to see their monthly credit score or to save on paying interest ”“ but if they forget to call and cancel or opt out, they are left with steep bills ”“ often costing them more than if they had just stayed the course.

Unfortunately, there are many predatory companies in this state and in this country. That is why it’s important for consumers to do their research, read the fine print, and stay attuned to when a promotional offer they sign up for expires.

Today, getting behind on payments and mounting interest is a reality for most people. So getting a break from a company that seems to be offering a solution sounds like a great opportunity. But the old adage can likely be applied: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

— Robyn Burnham Rousseau is the city editor in the Journal Tribune newsroom.