BBB SCAM ALERT: How to spot a phony offer and find a trustworthy business

Published 2:44 pm Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

The following is from the Better Business Bureau:

If you want solar panels, be very careful when evaluating installation offers. Con artists use misleading sales tactics and lies to trick homeowners out of money and personal information. If you’ve received an offer for “free solar panels,” it could be a scam. Always look for businesses you can trust – like Accredited Businesses using the BBB Seal. Here’s what you should know.

How the scam works

Someone contacts you through email, phone, social media, or even in person, as in cases reported to BBB Scam Tracker. They are pretending to be a solar company salesperson. The “representative” has a special offer: they can install solar panels on your home for a very low cost – or even free. This amazing deal is only available for a limited time, so you must act now!

From here, the scam can take several turns. In some versions, the scammer is after your personal information. They ask you to fill out forms with your banking details “to see if you qualify.” Other times, the “solar representative” claims you need to pay upfront costs, which they promise will be reimbursed by a (non-existent) government program.
BBB Scam Tracker has seen numerous reports of this kind of scam.

One homeowner was approached by a door-to-door salesperson “claiming he could get me a new roof plus solar equipment, with a government rebate for 26% off cost, essentially paying for the new roof.” After doing their research, the homeowner found that while a government rebate program existed, the salesperson misrepresented it to make a sale.
In another case, a homeowner spoke on the phone to a “solar engineer” after being approached in person. “The engineer claimed they could make it cost-free for us. He said they had finished their installations in our neighborhood and met their quota but would try to squeeze us in.” However, the conversation took a strange turn when the “solar engineer” asked for personal information. When the homeowner declined to answer, the conversation got heated. “We ended the conversation, and I received a nasty text … It was completely unprofessional.”

One other homeowner reported, “Scammer used printed notes left at front doors, pretended to represent freedom forever solar company. A call to the company revealed that person was not one of their employees, and they don’t send representatives going door to door. Contact info on printed note: Kayla McIver, 520-651-7584, asked to be contacted by phone or text message.”

How to avoid solar panel scams

● Do your research. Genuine incentive programs and reputable solar energy contractors do exist.

Before you accept an unsolicited offer, do some research on solar companies in your area.

Investigate each company’s reputation and business practices before signing a service contract.

● Don’t give in to high-pressure sales tactics. Con artists want to provoke an emotional reaction that would cause you to give in to their requests without thinking it through. Take your time; know that a legitimate company won’t pressure you to act. If someone uses aggressive sales tactics on you, it’s best to cut off communication immediately.

● Get competing bids. Contact several solar installers if you plan on going solar and get bids from each company. If someone is pulling a con, they will be much easier to spot this way.

● Ask plenty of questions and consider the answers. Ask questions about any aspect of a contract or proposal you don’t understand. If the company gets upset about your questions, refuses to answer them, or is vague with their answers, consider it a red flag.