A colleague of mine called to ask for some help. She and her two sisters are stepping in to help their parents and shared the never-ending battle they are having with a company called PowerHome Solar that recently rebranded to Pink Solar. See the link to recent news story about this icky business … apparently they are notorious for their misleading tactics and the law suits are mounting.
This is just one family’s story about the struggle to fend off a predatory business. However, as daily money managers at MemoryBanc, we run into these situations often with our clients. Sometimes that phone creates easy access to individuals who are too trusting. We work with many individuals who want to continue answering their phones and will engage with the callers. How do your balance free will, choice, purpose, meaning AND safety?
The hard reality is that real businesses can prey on older adults, it is not just fraudsters and scammers.
Couple in Ohio
My colleagues’ parents live in their home of several decades in a small town in Ohio. Apparently, dad signed up for more information online after reading about how solar energy could decrease their electric bills. The company sent out a salesperson who was at the house for three hours which resulted in them signing a contract for solar polar grid installation for $58,000. Thankfully, they told one of the daughters about it and they were able to cancel the contract within the three-day window. They specifically requested that the company not contact the parents again.
A month later, they sent another person to the parents’ house and they sat with them for four hours. This “nice young kid” sold them the same contract again – $58K. Thankfully one of the daughters called during the meeting and they were able to cancel the second contract the next day.
This time they asked to speak to a manager and told them to stop. The very next day the manager called the parents and asked to set up a third appointment.
There is no math anyone can perform that would make a $58,000 solar panel installation pay itself back in her parent’s lifetime. However, something is compelling about this and mom and dad keep signing the contract.
WHAT CAN YOU DO? These are simple steps to take to support a loved one. In this situation, the advanced options might be the only way to help fend off predatory businesses.
- Set up alerts on spending for the bank account. I get alerts for my own bank account and credit cards. I have been able to immediately report a fraudulent charge as well as been alerted on recurring charges for services. I do admit that it was eye-opening to know how a meal service program I signed up for at one cost quickly escalated and no longer felt like a good use of grocery funds once the incentives ended.
- Get added to the bank account as power of attorney if they agree. This is different than being added as a joint account holder on the account. This way you will have online access and will be able to check-in and see income and debits.
- Minimize the amount of money in the bank account and fund it as needed. This can be a balancing act but if you are worried about fraud or misuse of funds, don’t keep a lot of money in the primary bank account.
Some of these are unpopular choices but work. We have done these when there has been a large or repeated scams/predatory service provider(s).
- Change the phone number. You can also block the number, but often a business will have so many variations the only way to stop the calls is to change their phone number to an unlisted number.
- Have a Trust and put all of the assets in a Trust. You can have a trust that requires more than one signature and can set up barriers to contracting. I am not a lawyer, so I recommend you contact one to discuss this option.
- Petition for Guardianship. This is the option of last resort because it is costly and harsh. You are basically stripping the individual of the ability to sign contracts and manage their finances. Contact a lawyer about this option as well.
Thanks to my colleague for allowing me to share the challenges her family is facing. I hope you find some of the tips and insights are helpful for you and your family. Vigilant.
Solar Panel Scams: How to Avoid Them and the Biggest Red Flags CNET 5/22/2022