By Bill Johnson
President, Brilliant Harvest
If you are thinking about installing a solar energy system on your home or business, or if you just really like reading about solar, then you’ve probably noticed lots of solar-related ads popping up on sites you visit and your Facebook activity feed. Perhaps you’ve even been tempted to click on one of those ads and enter some personal information in order to see how much money you could save on your power bills or get the inside scoop on great rebates or incentives. But you should think about who might be on “the other end” of those interactions so that you don’t fall for a solar scam!
The more content you read about solar, the more ads you’ll notice in your feed. “Amazing SECRET Way To Get FREE Solar Panels!” “FREE Solar Panels, FREE Solar Electricity.” “Get PAID To Go Solar!” “Solar Programs For Homeowners.” One series of ads leading back to a website called “Solar Rebate” reported that state governors from across the country had signed off on tax breaks for homeowners who install new solar panels (except that those tax incentives didn’t exist).
One ad that popped up recently was so convincing that it even spurred my wife to click, thinking it was a news story about the industry that she might have missed. (Not likely in our household.)
But you should know that these ads aren’t being placed by reputable solar companies. If you have clicked on any of them, you’ve probably been taken to a screen that promises to provide information about solar … in exchange for your personal information. The companies behind these activities collect and sell your data. (Click HERE for a recent AP story on Facebook scams.)
In one such scam referenced in the AP story, a Facebook page called “Solar Energy Today” promised solar energy tax credits – which didn’t exist – or rebates if homeowners installed new solar panels. The ads featured pictures of various governors to localize the content, based on where the user lived. They spent a reported $2.4 million on thousands of ads in order to gather personal data – presumably to sell to others, according to various news stories.
There are a multitude of “marketing” companies that collect data in a way that’s disingenuous or just flat-out dishonest. I’ve been contacted by a lot of them, offering to sell me “qualified leads” – in other words, people who have expressed an interest in solar energy. Where do you think that information comes from? Now you know. These companies collect the personal information of people who thought they were communicating with experts in the field and turn around and try to sell it to actual installers like us. Needless to say, we aren’t buying.
In this day and age, our privacy is often at risk. Scammers are always looking for new ways to get us to let our guard down and finding a topic they know we’re interested in is a great first step in making that happen.
A reputable solar energy installation company isn’t going to try and trick you into offering up your name, email, phone and address. To get a proposal on a solar energy project, you will need to provide information such as this but you should make sure your information is being used as you intended.
If you’ve found content that piques your interest, think carefully before you click. If there’s a company name, look them up on the Better Business Bureau website. There are numerous trustworthy resources for information about solar energy, whether you:
- Are looking for the lowdown on solar energy rebates and incentives (click HERE);
- Want to verify someone’s license; or
- Are seeking advice on finding the best solar installer.
Better yet, just give us a call – we’ll always be happy to talk solar with you!