Going green? Don’t get scammed!

As Kermit the Frog once said, it ain’t easy being green. With the cost of power rising every year, it’s sensible to look at renewable energy either to fully or partly power your home. Doing so can slash your energy costs and in some cases even give you the ability to sell some power generated back to the grid. Plus, it’s good for the environment.

However, there comes the inherent cost of installing green energy initiatives in your home. While considerable government rebates are still available, installing a rooftop solar system will still set you back thousands of dollars. Despite the expense, solar panels are booming in Australia – it’s a multi-billion dollar industry. Unfortunately this has in turn attracted some unscrupulous operators in an attempt to make a quick buck off misinformed or naïve customers.

How do these scams work?

According to the ACCC’s Scamwatch Service, there are several ways scammers operate:

  • Posing as a government or energy company official
  • Sending you an unsolicited email or phone call, or even visiting your house to sell you a plan

The Scamwatch Service also outlines a scammer’s common modus operandi:

  1. They offer a generous rebate, and that you must buy now before the rebate ends
  2. To take advantage of the rebate, you need to pay a small upfront deposit

Of course, if you go through with these steps, your chances of seeing that money again are highly unlikely. The scammers are like light switches – their charm or persistence can lure you in, then when the money is in their bank account, you never hear from them again. While this one-off amount may not seem extraordinary, the fact the scammers do this frequently means they can make hefty sums off this simple and old-school, but effective, scam.

How do you identify these scams before they happen?

There are several ways to identify these scams and nip them in the bud before they become a problem, or before you end up talking to some schmuck on the phone for an hour, convincing you to hand over money. Identifying scams takes only a few minutes of easy research and Googling.

  • The Australian Government will never ask for a fee to claim a rebate either in person, over the phone or online. This mysterious fee should raise immediate red flags.
  • Unsolicited contact should also be a red flag. In this case, research the company the call is supposedly coming from and verify its contact information through an independent source. If it doesn’t add up, it’s likely a scam.
  • If contacted and asked, never give out personal details over the phone, in person or over email.
  • REMEMBER: If a deal sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.

If the worst happens and you do mistakenly provide your financial details to a scammer, you must contact your bank or financial institution immediately. They can protect your money, but only if you’re quick. Any scams that have occurred can and should be reported to police and the ACCC’s Scamwatch website. It’s likely if they’ve scammed you, they’ve done it many times before, and the relevant fraud penalties can be harsh.

Overall, it seems like there’s a lot of worrying hoops you need to jump through to save money on a solar energy investment. Though, it can be made easier by taking precautions to avoid scams – something that are just an unnecessary headache. With scams, prevention is the best cure and using these tips can ensure your solar energy installation is as painless as possible.

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