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Better Business Bureau warns against 'free solar panel' scams

"If you've received an offer for 'free solar panels,' it's likely a scam," the BBB said in a press release.
Credit: FOX43

YORK, Pa. — The Better Business Bureau issued a warning about scammers who use misleading sales tactics and outright lies to trick homeowners out of money and personal information under the guise of selling solar panels.

"If you've received an offer for 'free solar panels,' it's likely a scam," the BBB said in a press release.

Here's what you should know.

How this scam works

Someone contacts you through email, phone, social media, or even in person, as in many 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. The amazing deal is only available for a limited time, so you must act now!

From here, the scam can take several turns, according to the BBB. 

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, the BBB said. 

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 was misrepresenting it to make a sale.

See the full article on BBB.org for more examples

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 you consider signing a contract for services.
  • 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 and know that a legitimate company won't pressure you to act. If someone is using 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.

For more information

Read BBB's guide to going solar. If you've been the victim of a solar panel scam, report it to BBB Scam Tracker. By reporting your experience, you can help others avoid falling for the same scam.

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