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How to be vigilant against energy scams

17 May 2023 FNB
Roshan Jelal

Roshan Jelal

As the demand for alternative energy solutions surges, fraudsters are seizing the opportunity by scamming unsuspecting consumers and businesses out of their hard-earned money.

Roshan Jelal, FNB Risks, says “criminals are continuously taking advantage of the vulnerability of consumers, using every opportunity to do so. Purchasing online has become a way of life, and while it is convenient, it is also the breeding ground for criminals who create fake websites and social media accounts that purport to offer back-up and/or solar systems at massive discounts. Some of these pages even have fake reviews to boost their appeal."

More brazen criminals impersonating legitimate suppliers or installers may even approach households and businesses to conduct inspections, take necessary energy usage measurements, provide quotations, draw contracts and invoices, and negotiate on price before requesting payments and deposits.

Another tactic is for criminals to intercept invoices from legitimate suppliers or installers, change the banking details on those intercepted invoices, and then dupe unsuspecting victims into redirecting payments to the fraudster.

Jelal says, "Before you start working with a potential supplier, you must ask yourself whether you are dealing with a reputable supplier and if their services sound too good to be true compared to market-related prices, which is an immediate red flag. It’s also important not to dismiss your gut feelings and to consult experts to ensure that what you’re getting is what you require."

Jelal shares the following tips to protect you and your business:

• Be cautious of highly sought-after products at significantly reduced prices.
• Conduct research, as this is one of the best methods to avoid becoming a victim.
• The source of your information about a supplier is just as important.
• Do your level best to authenticate and validate any potential supplier.
• Do not just rely on what you find online, use several channels to contact the supplier: business address, email address, and phone numbers.
• We urge you to utilize the nav>> Energy feature on the FNB App, as it aims to help you verify suppliers, gives you information and a selection of alternative solutions.
• Avoid making hasty purchases while scanning social media platforms.
• Avoid making a purchasing decision based on the reviews posted, as these could be part of the scam.

"Lastly, educate yourself by looking at many different sources of information to help you keep abreast of the latest fraud trends. For once-off payments, it is always advisable to use the Account Owner Verification tab on Online Banking if you’re an FNB customer to verify the payment you are making. Fraudsters are likely to always capitalise on one’s desperation, but they unwittingly leave clues about their true intent, which should trigger suspicion. While the market for alternative energy is on the rise, it is critical for consumers and businesses to ensure that they are dealing with reputable suppliers to avoid exposing themselves to fraudsters looking for a quick buck," concludes Jelal.

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