This article first appeared here
As the loadshedding situation in South Africa worsens, many desperate citizens are turning to solar power at their homes or businesses to keep the lights on and – hopefully – save on energy costs in the long run. Unfortunately, with increased demand in solar installations, unsavoury characters are taking advantage of consumers’ growing desperation.
Here are some simple tips to avoid getting scammed out of your hard-earned money:
- Verify that a company is legit. Don’t just rely on a link sent to you by an alleged service provider.
- Online service review sites can save you thousands – read what other customers have to say about a specific company before you decide to enter into any agreement.
- Compare the website links provided by a supposed installer with the web address of the company they claim to work for. Scammers will often amend a web address only slightly.
Example: A legitimate URL will be https://www.fakesolarpowercompany.co.za while the fake website will be listed as http://www.fakesolarpowerscompany.com
- Scam sites will often use other websites’ or companies’ images as “proof” of work completed. Do a quick reverse image search online to check whether an image was used elsewhere before. Here’s how to perform a reverse image search.
- Ensure the company you’re dealing with is accredited. The South African Photovoltaic Industry Association (SAPVIA) has put together an extensive list of accredited solar installation companies. You can request these companies to supply a Certificate of Compliance (CoC) and a PV GreenCard at any time. Should an installer be unable or unwilling to provide these documents, rather find someone else.
- Request a detailed checklist before installation begins. This checklist will detail all the general timeline, and steps needed to complete your solar energy installation, as well as the type of equipment being installed (such as inverters, batteries, and modules).
- If a deal sounds too good to be true, it usually is.
- Shop around and speak to people who already have solar installations to determine whether a company is trustworthy or not.
- A legitimate solar installer will very rarely reach out to you. Any unsolicited offer to install solar panels must be met with great caution.
- If someone claims to represent a legitimate company but insists you work directly through that person, rather contact the company first to confirm that the person is indeed employed by them.
- Facebook Marketplace and other online sales platforms are usually not the best places to find a reliable solar installer. It’s also much harder to recoup any money should a deal go wrong.
- If a company or individual tries to pressure you into signing a contract, rather walk away – even more so if they don’t want you to read through the sales agreement in your own time.
- Never sign a contract or agreement you don’t fully understand.
- Unfortunately, the upfront costs required for a solar installation are high. It’s therefore crucial that you verify a company’s banking details before you make any payment.
Of course, one way to protect from any scams is by using an escrow service such as Paysho whenever you want to hire a contractor to do any work for you. Paysho gives you peace of mind with every purchase you make by ensuring that your money is protected from any scam. Whether you are buying online or offline, you can be sure with Paysho.