How can you avoid home green energy scams?

It’s clear how vital it is that we adapt our energy consumption at home to protect the planet. From installing effective loft insulation to putting in energy saving devices at home, we can all do our bit to reduce our carbon footprint. Unfortunately, scammers do take advantage of this willingness to make our homes greener - and to save on our bills in the process. Here, we’ll give you an overview of recent energy scams across the UK, the US and Canada. Plus, we’ll give you key pointers to avoid falling for them!

What types of green home scams take place?

Over recent years, various green home scams have surfaced in the UK, the US and Canada. We’ll outline just a few of them here, to give you an idea of the kind of scam it’s worthwhile looking out for.

Recent green home scams: the UK

UK home owners were targeted with scams about the new Green Homes Grant in summer 2020.

Consumers reported receiving calls, emails and text messages claiming they were eligible for green grants. Other scams involved offering specific installations to save energy in the home, such as insulation.

While this may not have been obvious to consumers, these offers were clearly scams as the Green Homes Grant scheme hadn’t even launched at that point (it was opened in September 2020).

Scams that were reported included:

  • Companies pretending to be part of the new scheme and offering home owners insulation for their attics
  • Phone calls informing home owners that they were eligible for the Green Homes Grant

Recent green home scams: the US

In the US, recent green energy scams have particularly targeted senior citizens and consumers who are motivated about reducing their environmental impact:

  • A fraudulent $10 million scheme in Alabama, where a father and son claimed to be able to convert landfill rubbish into ethanol
  • A Florida-based multimillion dollar carbon credit scam that particularly targeted elderly people
  • Fraudulent schemes selling products with supposedly huge positive environmental impact, such as a device that would increase car gas mileage by up to 150 miles per gallon of fuel
  • A $1 billion solar energy fraud scheme that hoodwinked even the US Treasury

Recent green home scams: Canada

Natural Resources Canada is a governmental entity responsible for promoting and managing green energy initiatives in Canada.

The entity’s warned Canadian consumers about misleading sales tactics, where supposedly reliable green energy offers claim to be backed by Natural Resources Canada. These could claim affiliation with Natural Resources Canada itself, or one of its brands: ENERGY STAR, EnerGuide or ecoENERGY.

The government’s website particularly emphasises that the Government of Canada does not provide rebates or incentives for energy products.

In particular, the advice recommends consumers watch out for:

  • Unexpected home visits asking to inspect your hot water heater
  • Attempts to convince you that your home energy equipment is faulty and that you should buy or rent the devices being touted

The good deed angle

For many consumers, it’s their desire to support positive change and protect the environment that initially draws them into these scams.

It’s vital to remember that there are tangible, verifiable and reliable ways to change your energy habits at home.

These make a real difference. Installing insulation and energy saving devices with reliable companies is the best way to protect your finances and your home, while protecting the planet.

Green energy at home: how to spot a scam

Below, we’ll outline a simple question checklist that you can go through if you think you may be being targeted by a green homes scam.

  • Has the supposedly green company contacted you totally out of the blue?

This could be a cold call, or a random email from a company that you don’t remember sharing your email with.

  • Does the deal honestly sound too good to be true?

Perhaps the company is offering incredibly low prices, or astronomical savings on your future home energy bills.

  • Is the caller or emailer asking you to share your personal details?

Scams will often ask you to share your banking details so that they can access your account. They may also ask for other personal details. You should always be vigilant and cautious about sharing this type of information with sources you’re not sure that you can trust.

  • Is the caller or emailer pressuring you to decide to take the deal as quickly as possible?

Often, scammers will pressurise the people they’re targeting so that they feel rushed into making decisions that they haven’t had time to think over properly.

  • Has the supposedly green company only provided vague contact details, blurry details of the energy deal itself, or refused to provide more details about their company?

These are all signs that it’s not a legitimate company, or deal.

  • Is the email or website of the company full of incorrect spellings or grammatical errors?

Again, this is a useful indication that the company contacting you is not a legitimate organisation.

  • Has the caller or emailer asked you to keep the exclusive deal they’re offering you under wraps?

This is a technique scammers use to try to isolate consumers, while encouraging them to act quickly to qualify for the supposedly great deal.

Green energy scams: protect your home’s green future

If you can answer “yes” to any of the questions above, you could be being scammed. It’s best to stop the conversation, take a step back and think things through.

Do you feel the deal is reliable? Do your research on the company and contact a consumer advice organisation for further support.

Make sure you never share any personal details unless you’re totally sure you can trust the organisation that’s asking for them.

It’s vital that we all work to improve energy efficiency in our home, as well as to start using more green energy. Use these tips to keep a sharp eye out for scams, so you can be sure you’re investing in real, reliable green changes for your home.