We hear from a lot of people these days who fear they might be the victim of a solar scam. There’s a knock on the door, a fast-talking salesman, and, before they know it, they’re bound to a lengthy and costly contract for solar panels they did not want or need.
You can protect yourself from a solar nightmare.
First, it’s important to know how the common solar ripoff works:
- There’s an unexpected knock at your door, or an eager salesman meets you in your yard.
- He might say he spoke to your neighbor who’s getting solar, and heard that you might be interested too.
- It’s common for the salesman to say that he’s with your electric company or with the local government, and needs to inspect your roof, circuit box, or another part of your house to see if you qualify for a special rebate, tax credit, or program.
- He may pressure you into making a hurried decision claiming that the tax credits or rebates are due to end soon.
- He may offer you cash incentives simply for determining if you qualify, and ask you for a blank check so that your incentive can be deposited into your account.
- Lastly, he’ll ask you to sign his iPad or tablet to check if you’re qualified.
Many consumers learn only much later that they have a hard inquiry on their credit reports made without permission, that their names have been forged on documents, and that they’ve been placed into a lengthy contract binding them to buy or lease solar panels or energy at high prices. The solar scammer hides the fraudulent electronic contract until it appears that it’s too late to cancel it.
How to protect yourself from unscrupulous solar companies
- Slow things down.There is no rush for you to enter into a deal. If you feel rushed, it might be a solar scam.
- Get a straight answer about who the salesman works for. Get his business card and tell him you’ll call back after doing your own research on his company.
- Be cautious about big promises of energy savings, referrals, rebates, or tax credits. Go online and do your own research.
- Shop around. There are many solar companies to choose from. Compare quotes from the inquirer with local and national companies to figure out what works best for you.
- Read the contract. Get a copy before you sign anything. Solar contracts are long and complex. You need to know what you are getting into.
- Never give our personal information – bank account numbers, birth dates, Social Security Number – to a stranger you just met. (This goes for anyone, not just door-to-door salesmen).
- Monitor your credit. It is illegal for a solar company to make a hard inquiry on your credit report without a permissible purpose.
- Visit websites for the Federal Trade Commission and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau for advice on protection from solar energy scams.
- Research news articles for stories about solar scams in your area.
If you feel that you have been the Victim of Solar Panel Scam, see a suspicious hard inquiry on your credit report, or have been ripped off by a door-to-door salesman, contact a qualified consumer protection attorney experienced in the laws governing credit report privacy and consumer fraud.