How the scam works:
(with video below)
Watch out for the latest scheme in the home improvement sector: the Heating And Air Conditioning Repair Service scam, aka the Furnace Repair scam. Most of the technicians out there are legitimate and honest, but this scam is increasing nationwide as you're reading this. How does the scam work?
Watch the shocking video below to see in action the Heating And Air Conditioning Repair Service scam, exposed:
Let's take a deeper look. In this fraudulent move, hundreds of people are lured into believing that their units (air conditioners, furnaces) need fixes. The scam works like this: Let's say you notice your unit (air conditioner, furnace) is not working. You find an offer online from someone advertising affordable prices for repairs, such as $25. You hire him, he comes over, and after a "in-depth analysis" he informs you that your unit is in a seriously bad condition. In reality, you might have just a loose fuse in the system, which takes a second to push back.
As a result of the technician's diagnose, he says you would need to replace the whole air conditioning unit/furnace. As you might not be entirely convinced of the diagnose, he might throw around a few key phrases such as: "It's leaking freon (the coolant inside the air conditioner)", "It has a locked rotor (motor not working)", or "the igniter went bad". In other words, in order to replace just the broken part which could be close to $2,000 in the air conditioning system, the technician suggests the victim to get a brand new unit.
In this case, a victim would have to pay a few thousand dollars to the tech's company for a job that could take a few minutes and under $100 of expenses.
Not to mention that a lot of times these questionable technicians don't even have proper licenses.
How to avoid the Heating and Air Conditioning Repair Service scam:
Just like in many other cases, this scam is a trick known as 'Bait and Switch' scheme. A small price is advertised, but an entirely different service and price are requested once you're hooked.
Always do some research online when you're about to hire a cheap local technician. Read reviews - if it's a reputable business, it shouldn't be hard to figure out the quality of work. On the other hand, don't be shy to ask the technician for his business license. Tell the contractor over the phone to bring it over when they come.
The 24-hour air conditioning repair or furnace replacement services are great to have, but you need to do your diligence.
According to the Better Business Bureau, you should also consider the following steps:
"Basic checks. Before calling a technician, check a few basic things first on your unit. Is your thermostat operating properly? Has the electrical breaker powering the unit tripped? Does your system have a winter power shut off switch that needs to be flipped? Are the air in-take screens or filters on your outside unit dirty or blocked and need to be cleaned?
Sometimes there are minor, inexpensive things you can do yourself to alleviate a problem and avoid paying for a service call or repair. Do not take the air conditioners apart or try to repair them on your own or you may end up doing more damage which could result in a more expensive repair. Leave the servicing of your air conditioner to a trusted, licensed professional.
Estimates on paper. Do not be satisfied with verbal promises. Make sure you get a written estimate that notes what is wrong with your air conditioner, what the entire cost to repair or replace the unit will be, and the printed and signed name of the repair person. If they are recommending purchasing a new system, also require that the estimate include its make, model, serial number, and system capacity.
Annual inspection. Paying for an annual inspection with a qualified repair shop to check the compressor, moving parts, coolant levels, filter, and furnace blower can identify and resolve problems before they become expensive. Having work done before the peak summer busy season can be less costly than when air conditioning service technicians are in high demand.
Check out the full market. When faced with a pricey repair or new air conditioner purchase, get a few written quotes before you make a final decision. Quotes should include a full description of the services and materials to be used so you can adequately compare them; this includes the air conditioners size and units of energy (BTU) as well as the calculated cooling capacity of your home. Also compare all available warranties. Not all warranties are the same so they should be included in your evaluation process.
Manufacturer’s Warranty. Is your air conditioner still under manufacturers’ warranty? Sometimes using unauthorized service companies or replacement parts can void your warranty. Be sure to check your owners’ manual or warranty for any special conditions to avoid unnecessarily paying for any future repairs that might otherwise be paid for under the warranty.
Avoid paying cash. Try to pay by credit card if you can and avoid paying cash. If paying by check, make it out to the name of the business rather than payable to the employee or another individual. Some unethical employees and subcontractors steal from consumers by convincing them to write checks directly to them rather than the company that was hired. Consumers are still likely to be held liable to pay the company they hired to do the work. Depending on contract terms, they might also potentially face a lien on their property. A cancelled check is a useful form of evidence to prove you actually paid your bill.
Additionally, check that the company is insured against claims covering worker’s compensation, property damage, and personal liability in case an accident occurs on your property. Call to verify the contractor’s insurance coverage after obtaining the name of the carrier and agency. Ask the provider to send you proof of coverage for your records."
How to report the Heating and Air Conditioning Repair Service scam:
Make your family and friends aware of this scam by sharing it on social media using the buttons provided. You can also officially report the scammers to the Federal Trade Commission using the link below:
How to protect yourself more:
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Week January 8-14, 2017
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