See Something, Say Something

Beware of salespeople claiming cooperative affiliation

By J.D. Wallace

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Adobe Stock photo by Andrey Popov

Have you ever considered residential solar? Next thing you know, someone is knocking on your door or an advertisement pops up on social media that claims your cooperative is a partner with a particular rooftop solar company. They proceed to ask for your personal information. But wait—you didn’t know your cooperative partnered with a residential solar company.

“The primary ones that we have been concerned with are going door to door, representing themselves as affiliates of Trico,” says Laree St. Onge, manager of public affairs and sustainable energy programs at Trico Electric Cooperative, a member of Arizona Generation and Transmission Cooperatives.

Laree says a member called in December to say four people in their area were knocking on doors claiming to be Trico technicians. They were selling meters and solar equipment. Trico sent some of the reports to the Pima County Sheriff to be investigated.

“Trico doesn’t go door to door selling solar,” Laree says. “If someone says they’re with Trico doing that, let them know it’s not the case. Don’t release any personal information to these companies without doing more research in detail.”

In Mohave Electric Cooperative’s (MEC's) territory, four men were detained by Bullhead City Police earlier this year for impersonating MEC employees and trying to sell solar service to members without appropriate city permits.

Before the pandemic last year, the Sulphur Springs Valley Electric Cooperative Member Services Department, led by David Bane, held workshops offering members insights on the true cost and benefits of installing solar panels. More than 100 members attended.

Allison Ellingson, public affairs and regulatory compliance manager for MEC, says members also received calls saying if they didn’t pay their electric bill, MEC would disconnect their service.

“If in doubt, call MEC Member Services,” Allison says. “We do not want any of our members victimized by these scams. MEC will always provide written notices regarding service connections and does not disconnect after hours, on weekends or MECrecognized holidays.”

Eric Petermann, public relations manager for Sulphur Springs Valley Electric Cooperative (SSVEC), has yet to encounter reports of salespeople claiming to be affiliated with SSVEC. However, calls demanding payment before cutting off power remain a big concern.

Eric says SSVEC has informed members about these scams in its newsletter and through bill inserts. The imposter usually creates a sense of urgency and demands the victim put money on a prepaid card and take it to a specific location.

As with the other cooperatives, Eric says SSVEC does not demand payment in that way. Anyone who is called or contacted in person by someone who claims to be an SSVEC employee should try to get as much information from that person as possible and contact SSVEC and law enforcement.

“That’s not how we do business,” Eric says. “They should immediately call our office with any inquiries about their bill. They need to call us because we rarely call with such demands.”

Both SSVEC and Trico have hosted education workshops for members who want to learn more about solar and what it means for their home and their bill. SSVEC held at least nine classes last year, before the pandemic. Trico has more virtual classes planned.

“What many of our members are already aware of is that solar usually doesn’t work on our rate structure,” Eric says. “We haven’t had a rate increase in years and continue to have some of the lowest rates in the country.”

Laree says Trico is happy to work with members interested in installing residential solar and works well with installers in its area.

“Our classes really show our members that we are their trusted source of information,” Laree says. “We want them to have the facts, and we want to remind them to not give their information to anyone claiming to be affiliated with Trico. We want our members to know that they can call us with any questions.”