In an email response to Utah Public Radio's story about a telemarketing scam targeting consumers interested in solar energy, Rocky Mountain Power External Communications Director Paul Murphy says the company is no longer offering the Utah Solar Incentive Program.
The rebate program was designed to provide Rocky Mountain Power customers, both residential and non-residential, with a rebate after installation for a portion of the initial cost of installing certain solar systems.
Murphy says customers who link to the website will find a notice indicating the rebate offer has expired. He says the fact that the program is no longer an option for Utah residents is another reason for consumers to be wary of telemarketing scams claiming to offer limited deals for solar products.
Warnings about such a scam were issued by Francine A. Giani, Executive Director of the Utah Department of Commerce. She says callers are pretending to be from a fake state government agency. The imposter phone scammers are targeting consumers interested in solar energy.
Giani says consumers are being told there is a deadline with the government and they must act right away to receive special pricing on solar energy panels.
Daniel O’Bannon, Director of the Utah Division of Consumer Protection says the division has received reports that this most recent telemarketing scheme can confuse consumers who may be interested in participating in actual solar energy programs.
To encourage residents to consider alternative energy sources the state of Utah has a tax credit law that allows taxpayers to claim up to $2,000 to cover the costs of installing solar or other energy systems at a residential unit, such as a home or condominium.
O'Bannon says Utah consumers will never get a call from the IRS about the solar tax credit or from any other government agency trying to sell solar energy products. That is exactly what happened recently to at least one Utah resident. Someone called them claiming to be with the Utah Public Utilities Commission and offering special pricing on solar energy panels. There is a Utah Public Service Commission that regulates utilities but the caller claimed to represent the Utah Public Utilities Commission which doesn’t exist.
“The Public Service Commission is a government agency,” says O’Bannon. “The Utah Public Utilities Commission, that name that was used by whoever was making the calls, that sounds like a government agency. The government is not going to call and offer you a limited time deal to try to get you to make a purchase. Anytime someone is calling with a pitch like this over the phone that feels high pressured or says you have got act now, that should put up red flags.”
Avoiding a Government Imposter Scam requires the consumer to put a stop to efforts by scammers who try to force a wire money payment or gather personal information. O’Bannon says the victim should hang up the phone and look up the name of the agency the caller is claiming to represent.
“The report that came to us was from somebody who was actually a retired utilities employee who knew better,” he said. “If there is someone out there who has had that experience and has received a call from the so-called Public Utility Commission and then fallen for the scam we would encourage them to file a complaint with us and let us see what we can find out.
The person receiving the phone scam call should document the date and time of the call and if possible write down the number of the caller.